RFID Tags: Part 2 (Printable nanocircuits to replace the humble barcode?)

January 12, 2011

As we discussed in RFID Tags: Part 1, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags are often used as highway tolls, anti-counterfeiting devices and in public transit cards. But the tags, which are made of silicon, are more expensive than paper and they have to be applied onto the product as a second step.

Kohlenstoffnanoroehre Animation

Researchers in South Korea have built a radio frequency identification tag that can be printed directly onto packaging like cereal boxes and potato chip bags. Printing them as part of the package would make them much cheaper. The tag uses a semiconducting ink, which contains carbon nanotubes that will hold an electrical charge to print electronics on paper or plastic that could instantly transmit information about a shopping cart full of groceries.

But some hurdles remain before you’ll see this new technology tag at the grocery store. The current prototypes are three times the size of a typical barcode, and can only store one bit of information — just enough to either give a yes or no response to an RFID reader. Improving the resolution and accuracy of the printer should give smaller tags that carry more information. But they also need to improve the circuit so it emits higher power signals. The reader only works up to 10 centimeters away right now–not yet enough to work at a checkout line.

RFID tags are due to replace barcodes once they cost somewhere around a cent apiece to produce, rather than the current cost of 7 cents to 15 cents or more. In order to pass the one-cent milestone, the research group figures it must find how to lay down all the nanotube ink layers in one go during printing, instead of the three passes presently required.

We may likely see the convergence of print and RFID, as well as other printable electronics, by 2015 or perhaps earlier.

Find more like this: Emerging Technologies, Featured

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