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Precision flexible heater meeting the individual needs

VTT has developed a thin, flexible, and plastic-free heater to help in lowering the energy consumption at 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. Hot Delivery Company piloting the use of heaters in food delivery bags.

The use of insulation materials and reduction of room temperatures are means to lower the 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 printing the heating electronic components with a roll-to-roll method. A 50 micrometers or 0.05 millimeters 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 a very limited impact on the properties of the material, such as bending, stretch, or breathability, unlike the layer structures used in earlier floor and roof 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 Company 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 that are 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 Company. “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 degrees”, Kololuoma explains.

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