VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed a new high-volume production method for hot embossing microscopic channel structures onto large areas of plastic film at a low cost for use, for example, in wearable technology and cosmetic applications. One of VTT’s goals is to engineer a smart fabric adjustable with a mobile app for controlling the wearer’s temperature.
With the company’s high-volume method, microchannels can be produced on large areas of plastic film in a short time. Pumping cold or hot liquid through a network of microchannels enables the temperature control of functional clothes.
So far, the utilization of microscopic channels for other than diagnostic purposes has been limited by relatively high production costs and the small size of the networks of microchannels that can be manufactured through traditional methods.
VTT is currently developing a smart fabric that can be used as “personalized air conditioning” in outdoor clothing and is seeking partners within sports, outdoor recreation, wearable technology and the cosmetics industry for the commercialization of this new technology.
“Minuscule microfluidic channels can be compared to the cardiovascular system, for example,” says VTT’s Ralph Liedert. “This gave us the idea for other applications of our new method in addition to diagnostics, such as heating or cooling channels for clothing, storage and transport of substances that are only needed in small volumes (perfumes and fragrances) or that are very expensive, such as medicine.”
The channels can be embedded either into hard or soft plastics, depending on the purpose of use. For example, the feel and shape of a soft and elastic plastic film is better suited for integration into a coat compared to rigid plastics, which in turn are better suited for application in card format, such as a handy travel perfume dispenser that is the size of a credit card. Other possible uses of the thin cards include applications as diverse as very precise dosing of medicine and serving strong spices in restaurants.
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd. is a research and technology company serving international customers in both the public and private sectors.