Wallace & Gromit's Wrong Trousers
Is it possible to walk on ceilings the way Wallace does in the Wrong Trousers?Aardman Animations

If you've always wished you possessed the ability to walk on walls and the ceiling as in the Wallace and Gromit film The Wrong Trousers, then listen up – some university students have proved that it's technically possible.

Friday 27 June was Wrong Trousers Day, a special day run by the Wallace and Gromit Children's Charity. People across the UK are encouraged to wear wrong trousers for the day and to contribute a donation to help sick children.

In The Wrong Trousers, Gromit is given a pair of ex-Nasa Techno Trousers for his birthday, but the trousers are hacked by Wallace's malevolent "penguin" lodger, who uses them in a daring jewel heist that involves walking across ceilings.

Now, a group of fourth-year students from the University of Leicester's Department of Physics and Astronomy have calculated that if the Techno Trousers contained a vacuum generator powerful enough, there would be enough suction in just one boot to suspend a human in the air, at least for a short time.

Vacuum generator

"In order for the vacuum generator in the sole of the boots to work, we assumed there is a slightly raised rubber insulator surrounding the boot of the trousers. This would create a cavity which has a lower pressure than the surroundings when the vacuum is applied," said student Katie Raymer, 22.

"We observed the difference in pressure between the atmosphere and the cavity and found that the vacuum generator needs to be powerful enough to reduce the atmospheric pressure inside the boot cavity by approximately 18% in order to create a vacuum capable of supporting Wallace and the trousers. This corresponds to a low vacuum, which has a similar strength to a vacuum cleaner."

However, the trousers would not be able to last for very long due to the vacuum power needed, so the students estimate that if the vacuums contained in the boots of the Techno Trousers were equivalent to that of a wireless vacuum cleaner, then the trousers would offer only 20 minutes of time on a rechargeable battery.

Trousers in space

As part of their study, which is published in the university's peer-reviewed student journal, the Journal of Physics Special Topics, the students looked at whether these mechanical trousers would work in space too.

Student Tom Morris, 22, explained: "Originally the trousers were designed for use by astronauts for spacecraft repairs and other extra-vehicular activities. As the spacecraft would be in freefall at this altitude, there will be no acceleration relative to the spacecraft. The pressure in outer space is very close to a perfect vacuum.

"In order for the trousers to work, the pressure that needs to be created in the boot needs to be less than this. Achieving a pressure which would be lower than the local environment in space would be very complex and beyond the capability of the vacuum generator in the trousers."