Self-shrinking soft demoulding for complex high-aspect-ratio microchannels

    Microchannels are the essential elements in animals, plants, and various artificial devices such as soft robotics, wearable sensors, and organs-on-a-chip. However, three-dimensional (3D) microchannels with complex geometry and a high aspect ratio remain challenging to generate by conventional methods such as soft lithography, template dissolution, and matrix swollen processes, although they are widespread in nature. Here, we propose a simple and solvent-free fabrication method capable of producing monolithic microchannels with complex 3D structures, long length, and small diameter. A soft template and a peeling-dominant template removal process are introduced to the demoulding process, which is referred to as soft demoulding here. In combination with thermal drawing technology, microchannels with a small diameter (10 ┬Ám), a high aspect ratio (6000, length-to-diameter), and intricate 3D geometries are generated. We demonstrate the vast applicability and significant impact of this technology in multiple scenarios, including soft robotics, wearable sensors, soft antennas, and artificial vessels.

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Dongliang Fan, Xi Yuan, Wenyu Wu, Renjie Zhu, Xin Yang, Yuxuan Liao, Yunteng Ma, Chufan Xiao, Cheng Chen, Changyue Liu, Hongqiang Wang* , and Peiwu Qin*. Self-shrinking soft demoulding for complex high-aspect-ratio microchannels. Nature Communications , 2022, 13, 5083.