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Imec breakthrough in RFID for thin film

By Rod Addy , 12-Dec-2012

Imec breakthrough in RFID for thin film

Progress on inexpensive radio frequency identification (RFID) technology has taken a leap forward with the creation of a form of ultra high frequency (UHF) Shottky diode by research institute Imec.

The organisation, which is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, said the diode, which is based on amorphous IGZO (Indium-Gallium-Zinc Oxide) as semiconductor, could deliver passive (battery-less) intelligent RFID tags on thin film packaging.

When viewed alongside its recent invention of a functioning, bi-directional, thin film RFID circuit, the technology represented an important step towards intelligent, item level tagging, replacing barcodes, Imec said.

Scanned all together

They could enable products to be scanned all together, rather than one-by-one, as is the case with barcodes.

Such tags were ideal for the retail sector and would enable manufacturers to track product expiration, theft or misplacement, according to the institution, which also has bases in the Netherlands, Taiwan, China and India.

UHF silicon-based RFID technology is currently too expensive for mass market applications, but Imec claims its latest discovery would lead to dramatically reduced costs.

Low-cost solution

“Compared to silicon, IGZO-based technology has the potential to result in a low-cost solution, since IGZO thin film active devices are fabricated using a cheaper, low-temperature process,” the research outfit claimed.

This allowed the development of RFID chips directly on plastic foils, such as product packaging, it added.

However, Imec admitted IGZO chips had intrinsically a lower performance than conventional silicon and other conventional crystalline semiconductors. As a result, it was a challenge to fabricate ultra-fast IGZO devices.

UHF RFID tags have a long reading range of five to 10 metres and employ small, printed, low cost antennae.

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