Thin, flexible plastic-free heater R2R-printed with heating-electronics components

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed a thin, flexible and plastic-free heater to help in lowering energy consumption in homes and offices, and also to achieve individual comfort temperatures. When attached to seats, walls or floors, heaters can in the future identify their users and immediately generate heat to the individual temperature preferences of the occupants. Catering-delivery service Hot Delivery Co. is piloting use of such heaters in food-delivery bags.

The use of insulation materials and reduction of room temperatures are means to lowering energy consumption of buildings to prevent climate change. A one-degree decrease in room temperature leads to roughly 5% savings in heating costs. However, the comfort of residents suffers if the temperature of homes is decreased by several degrees. Comfortable temperatures can be achieved locally very quickly and with lower total energy consumption, if the heating can turn on and off rapidly as needed on the surfaces around the inhabitants, for example on the floor surface, on a seat cushion or on the wallpaper of an adjacent wall.

Comfort and warmth at home

Surfaces can be heated with the thin, bendable and flexible heater developed by VTT, which is produced by R2R-printing the heating electronic components. A 50-micron-thick metal mesh can be cut to form and installed on, for example, fabric, paper or floor laminate without an additional support layer. This has very limited impact on the properties of the material, such as bending, stretch or breathability, unlike the layer structures used in earlier floor- and ceiling-heating systems. 

“We can produce extremely wide-ranging and fast heaters for different surfaces, and they can be controlled zonally by a common control system. In the future, intelligence can also be added to the heaters with sensors that can identify the person in the room and their perception of the comfort temperature, for example. With the help of the sensors, the heater could also function as part of the safety system," explains Principal Scientist Terho Kololuoma from VTT.

A heater suitable for food-delivery bags and table disinfection

Home heating is just one example of what the flexible heater developed by VTT can do. When assessing the suitability of the technology, the research group has cooperated, for example, with the Finnish Hot Delivery Co. that develops intelligent transport solutions for catering services. In Finland, the Finnish Food Authority Evira requires that the temperature of food delivered hot does not drop below 60° C to prevent the growth of microbes harmful to humans.

“We are developing a new generation of food-transport solutions to ensure that the delivered food is both delicious and safe when it arrives. We are piloting the flexible VTT heater in our new food delivery bag as the properties of the heater seem promising”, says Aleksi Rautavuori from Hot Delivery Co.

“Our heater could also be used to disinfect tables and other surfaces in hospitals and other public areas. The surface temperature can be quickly raised up to 130°”, Kololuoma explains.