Prof. Boxin Zhao's bio-inspired "pick and place" technology was highlighted by the university. This research involves the integration of biomimetic "smart" adhesives and functional materials based on liquid crystalline networks. In his own words,
"Boxin Zhao reaches for a dispenser, tears off a strip of cellophane tape and sticks it to the top of his desk at the University of Waterloo, deliberately leaving a few centimetres of it flopping over the edge in front of him.
He grabs the overhanging tab of tape and forcefully yanks it towards himself. It doesn’t budge. Then he lifts the tape up and away from himself instead, slowly peeling the strip off the desk with no effort at all.
'When you pull it, it’s very strong,' says Zhao, a chemical engineering professor with a longstanding interest in biomimicry. 'When you peel it, it’s very easy.'
Peeling, not pulling.
That is the simple, elegant secret of how geckos seemingly defy gravity to scurry up walls and across ceilings, a 'hot topic' in Zhao’s world of surface science for the last two decades."