parness Dr. Aaron Parness
NASA/Jet Propulsion Lab
Robotic Mobility Section
(818) 436-9200
Session 3B Presentation 4
"Controllable ON-OFF Gecko Adhesives for LEO Applications"
Demo: Yes | Poster: No
One-on-One Table: No

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ON/OFF adhesives can benefit multiple Earth orbit applications by providing the capability to selectively anchor two surfaces together repeatedly and releasably. Key to this new capability, targets will not need special preparation; ON/OFF adhesives can be used with cooperative and non-cooperative objects, like space debris. A space-rated adhesive that can be turned ON/OFF at will can benefit ISS inspection, Astronaut EVA, in space assembly, satellite servicing, and rendezvous and docking applications within the decade.  JPL’s adhesive mimics a gecko’s adhesive system. Geckos adhere to surfaces using arrays of hierarchical hairs with features at the mm, µm, and nm scales that generate enough van der Waals forces to support the animal’s weight. The directional bias of these hairs provides a means of turning the adhesion ON and OFF through an applied shear load, a behavior also seen in JPL’s two-stage mm-µm synthetic structures. In practice, the applied shear load is generated through a slight sliding motion. Once activated in such a manner, a pad will resist both normal and shear forces aligned roughly to the loading direction. By arranging these pads in counterbalanced pairs, triads, or quads, omni-directional grip can be achieved, an architecture shown to a proof of concept level at JPL and employed by geckos when climbing on ceilings. The pads release with zero detachment force when the applied shear load is removed through the reversal of the slight sliding motion used to engage.

Dr. Aaron Parness (Robotic Vehicles and Manipulators Group, JPL) is the Principal Investigator of the “Gripping Foot Mechanisms for Anchoring and Mobility in Microgravity and Extreme Terrain” project working on omnidirectional anchors for both rough and smooth surfaces. He also leads a task on small reconnaissance robots for the military. Dr. Parness has over seven years of experience building and researching climbing robots. He has studied multiple methods of climbing, including insect-inspired approaches, gecko-inspired adhesives, electrostatic mechanisms, and mechanical interlocking methods like clawed climbing. His PhD dissertation at Stanford University is titled “Microstructured Adhesives for Climbing Applications”. Dr. Parness also has experience in the design and fabrication of parts at the millimeter and micrometer scales. He is expert in Shape Deposition Manufacturing techniques and developed novel 3D photolithographic approaches to molding plastic parts for multi-length scale, multi material robotic applications. Dr. Parness also has expertise in mechatronics, and has constructed several autonomous robot prototypes. At JPL, he has worked for the Chief Technologist’s Office and the MoonRise testbed in addition to his own research projects.

2010-Present – NASA Jet Propulsion Lab
2004-2009 – Stanford University
2000-2004 – MIT
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