TECH

DARPA 'Z-Man' Project Is Essentially A Real-Life Spiderman Programme

12/06/2014 11:17 BST | Updated 12/06/2014 11:59 BST

Darpa ('Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency') is the research wing of the US military. But on the internet, it's just a mysterious factory of technological wizardry.

Their latest invention is a new kind of biologically-inspired climbing aids known as the Z-Man program.

The idea apparently is to create a sort of lizard-inspired skin ("Geckskin") which is able to suspend a climbing human against a sheer wall.

DARPA explains:

“Geckskin” is one output of the Z-Man program. It is a synthetically-fabricated reversible adhesive inspired by the gecko’s ability to climb surfaces of various materials and roughness, including smooth surfaces like glass. Performers on Z-Man designed adhesive pads to mimic the gecko foot over multiple length scales, from the macroscopic foot tendons to the microscopic setae and spatulae, to maximize reversible van der Waals interactions with the surface.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst used nanofabrication tech to create the prototype you can see above. It enabled a 218-pound person to climb up and down 25 feet of sheer glass. The aim is to eventually make it able to suspend a soldier in full gear while climbing vertical surfaces. Which isn't terrifying at all.