Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Manchester University researchers invent cheaper, more powerful RFID tags

Steve Rogerson
June 4, 2015
Researchers at the University of Manchester in England have developed a graphene antenna for delivering cheaper, more powerful and more sustainable RFID tags and wireless sensors.
Made from compressed graphene ink, the antenna is flexible, environmentally friendly and could be cheaply mass-produced, paving the way for wearable wireless devices and sensors.
RFID tags wirelessly transfer data in a vast range of everyday objects, from car assembly to tracking household pets. Graphene, the world’s strongest, thinnest and most conductive material, could dramatically increase the conductivity of RFID tags.
In addition, the researchers claim it could deliver far cheaper devices by printing onto materials such as paper or plastic, rather than more expensive metals such as aluminium or copper.
Practical applications could include a wireless supermarket scanner that adds up trolley contents as the shopper passes, more effective and sensitive security systems, and smarter tracking of personal items and belongings.
The team, led by Zhirun Hu, and which also included the university’s Nobel laureates Sir Andre Geim and Sir Kostya Novoselov, tested their compressed graphene laminate by printing a graphene antenna onto a piece of paper. They presented their results in the journal Applied Physics Letters.
“We started to work on these antenna only recently, but even our first results prove that this technology is already better than the ones currently used,” said Hu.
Sir Kostya added: “At the National Graphene Institute at the University of Manchester we have a programme on printable electronics, and printable graphene RFID are only the first products of many. We are intensively testing other 2D materials for similar applications.”
Graphene ink is low cost and flexible, giving it advantages of other inks. The researchers increased the conductivity of graphene ink by printing and drying it, and then compressing it with a roller. This increased its conductivity by more than 50 times.
“Graphene based RFID tags can significantly reduce the cost thanks to a much simpler process and lower material cost,” said Xianjun Huang, the first author of the paper.