The research details a new high-volume method in which microchannels can be produced on large areas of plastic film in a short time at a low cost for use.
Hot or cold liquid through can then be pumped through the network of microchannels, which scientists say can be ideal for substances only needed in small amounts such as cosmetics, or for wearable technology, enabling the temperature control of functional clothes.
So far, the utilisation 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; so this could be a solution to that.
"Minuscule microfluidic channels can be compared to the cardiovascular system, for example,” VTT's Key Account Manager for Wearable Technology and Printed Diagnostics, 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, or the storage and transport of substances that are only needed in small volumes (perfumes and fragrances) or that are very expensive (medicine).”
VTT says that the channels mentioned can be embedded into either hard or soft plastics, depending on the purpose of use.
For use in fragrance, the research gives the example of rigid plastics, which are better suited for application in card format, and can be used in applications such as a handy travel perfume dispenser that is the size of a credit card.
Other possible uses of the thin cards can also include when very precise dosing is needed.
Along with cosmetics applications there are a number of possibilities according to VTT, such as in medicine or food, and one of its goals is to engineer a smart fabric adjustable with a mobile app for controlling the wearer's temperature.
The Finnish organisation is currently developing a smart fabric which can be used as ‘personalised air conditioning’ in outdoor clothing; and is also seeking partners within the cosmetics , sports, outdoor recreation, wearable technology industry for the commercialisation of this new technology.