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Apeeling Designs

Generating networks of 3D microchannels – applications in microfluidic devices and soft robotics

12 November 2022

Apeeling Designs

Channels, tunnels and tubes – life relies on vessels to move fluids around, with our circulatory system transporting cells, chemicals and warmth all over the body. Biomedical engineers often mimic this pipework to learn about the physics involved, but also to watch commuting cells adapting to travel inside. Here researchers overcome a hurdle to more ambitious 3D designs for their networks of microchannels. First, they allow a plastic material to set around wire-like templates of soft resin. Once set, they pull out the templates which become thinner as they stretch, peeling away from the inside of each tube gently, where a solid wire might split or crack the design. They are left with these networks of channels – examples of how this 'soft demoulding' process could be adapted for microfluidic devices, or even used in the pneumatic systems of soft robots designed to help around the body.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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