In this work we report on experiments aimed at testing the cavitation hypothesis [Varenberg, M.; Gorb, S. J. R. Soc., Interface 2008, 5, 383-385] proposed to explain the strong underwater adhesion of mushroom-shaped adhesive microstructures (MSAMSs). For this purpose, we measured the pull-off forces of individual MSAMSs by detaching them from a glass substrate under different wetting conditions and simultaneously video recording the detachment behavior at very high temporal resolution (54,000-100,000 fps). Although microcavitation was observed during the detachment of individual MSAMSs, which was a consequence of water inclusions present at the glass-MSAMS contact interface subjected to negative pressure (tension), the pull-off forces were consistently lower, around 50%, of those measured under ambient conditions. This result supports the assumption that the recently observed strong underwater adhesion of MSAMS is due to an air layer between individual MSAMSs [Kizilkan, E.; Heepe, L.; Gorb, S. N. Underwater adhesion of mushroom-shaped adhesive microstructure: An air-entrapment effect. In Biological and biomimetic adhesives: Challenges and opportunities; Santos, R.; Aldred, N.; Gorb, S. N.; Flammang, P., Eds.; The Royal Society of Chemistry: Cambridge, U.K., 2013; pp 65-71] rather than by cavitation. These results obtained due to the high-speed visualisation of the contact behavior at nanoscale-confined interfaces allow for a microscopic understanding of the underwater adhesion of MSAMSs and may aid in further development of artificial adhesive microstructures for applications in predominantly liquid environments.
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