Control of adhesion via internally pressurized subsurface microchannels

While pressure sensitive adhesives in general consist of a layer of viscoelastic glue sandwiched between two adherents, we explore here the design of an adhesive embedded with microchannels which remain either open to atmosphere or pressurized to different positive and negative pressures. We subject these layers to indentation by a rigid cylinder such that in addition to adhesion between the indenter and the adhesive surface, the inner walls of the channels too self-adhere; during retraction of the indenter, these surfaces debond, but at a different load, thus resulting in hysteresis. When these channels are pressurized to different extents, the contact areas of various interfaces vary, so also the resultant hysteresis. For experiments with constant depth of indentation, the hysteresis increases and attains maxima at an intermediate value of the internal pressure inside the channels. The hysteresis increases also with the skin thickness of the adhesive over the channels. These results show that subsurface channels in an adhesive allow active manipulation of adhesion over a large range via coupled effect of geometry of channels, their surface characteristics, and the pressure inside.