Fiber technology allows for easily-removed adhesives
Spiderman can do it, so can geckos. In fact, sticking to walls isn’t just a trick reserved for heroes or animals—for Akron-based startup Akron Ascent Innovations (AAI), it’s a new approach to solve an old problem: adhesion. After analyzing the science behind the fibers on gecko feet at the University of Akron, AAI started thinking about extending the same concept of stickiness and flexibility of positioning to consumer products.
“Conventional adhesives usually have a list of problems,” said Dr. Kevin White, COO and principal scientist. “Depending on the product, they’re messy, hard to apply, damaging, not adjustable, not reusable, too weak over time, or just plain wasteful. Their processing also often requires require solvents that present environmental and health challenges. We zeroed in on consumer removable after analyzing as many of the existing options as we could. From there, we set out to make an adhesive that was removable without sacrificing strength, and that’s how ShearGrip was born.”
With this goal in mind, AAI got to work applying the ShearGrip technology to a range of products including repositionable photo paper for inkjet printers, a “Pinless” bulletin board and repositionable whiteboards. Their secret? Nanofiber technology that creates an immense surface area, allowing for a strong grip that can be repositioned and removed so you can redecorate, rethink or reuse.
“Our products are built for everyday life,” said White. “Your kid can create art and put it on the wall without destroying it. You add to and change the things that inspire you at any time. All of this is built around the theme of ease of use, removability, adjustability, and DIY.”
To design a product that was both sticky and strong, AAI worked with the University of Akron. The technology concept was introduced by AAI co-founder and Akron professor Josh Wong, who noted that gecko foot properties could have consumer applications. The project was bolstered by initial training from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) I-Corps program, and later supported by grants from the NSF SBIR program and Ohio Third Frontier’s Technology Validation and Start-up Fund. AAI is also working closely with Bounce Innovation Hub, a partner of Ohio Third Frontier to supplement its technical skillset.
“This particular region has such a fantastically connected infrastructure,” said White. “People are excited when you say you’re from Akron. The level of access and the number of people we’ve been able to talk to even when we were just starting out has been incredible. If we were somewhere else, we would not have had that kind of access.”
For the future, White and his team are looking into applications that extend well beyond the wall, researching how this technology might be used in manufacturing, aerospace, and cosmetics industries among others.
“Extending our research is exciting,” said White. “This region is a polymer hub and pipeline, which is great for our industry. It’s a fantastic infrastructure, we’re almost inundated with the richness of it—that’s what’s helped us grow this business.”