This paper explores the contact behaviour of simple fibrillar interfaces designed to mimic natural contact surfaces in lizards and insects. A simple model of bending and buckling of fibrils shows that such a structure can enhance compliance considerably. Contact experiments on poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) fibrils confirm the model predictions. Although buckling increases compliance, it also reduces adhesion by breaking contact between fibril ends and the substrate. Also, while slender fibrils are preferred from the viewpoint of enhanced compliance, their lateral collapse under the action of surface forces limits the aspect ratio achievable. We have developed a quantitative model to understand this phenomenon, which is shown to be in good agreement with experiments.
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