Detachment behavior of mushroom-shaped fibrillar adhesive surfaces in peel testing

Synthetic dry adhesive surfaces with mushroom-shaped pillars have been the subject of recent research investigation. This study is the first to systematically investigate the effect of peel angle, pillar diameter, and pillar aspect ratio on the force required for peeling. Explicit emphasis was placed on relatively large pillar structures to allow for in situ optical visualization in order to gain insights into fundamental mechanisms which dictate peeling. Traditional molding techniques were used to fabricate optical-scale mushroom terminated structures with pillar diameters of 1 mm and 400 µm and aspect ratios of 1, 3, and 5. Results were quantitatively compared to peel testing theory for conventional adhesives. It was convincingly demonstrated that the critical decohesion energy of a patterned surface changes as a function of angle and cannot be treated as a constant. Variability in the critical decohesion energy was linked to mechanistic differences in detachment through in situ observations and finite element analysis (FEA). Experimental results showed that smaller pillars do not necessarily lead to higher adhesion during peeling, and contact mechanics combined with optical observations were used to explain this phenomenon. Finally, unlike results from normal adhesion studies, aspect ratio was shown to play little role in peeling adhesive behavior due to the mechanics of peel testing. The results and conclusions from this study uncover the detachment mechanisms of mushroom-shape tipped dry adhesives under peel loading and serve as an outline for the design of these surfaces in peeling applications.