3M unveils RFID progress

A 3M scientist has unveiled the company’s progress in creating organic semiconductor chips that could pave the way for mass production of low-cost RFID tags.

A 3M scientist this week presented a paper unveiling the company’s progress in creating organic semiconductor chips that could pave the way for mass production of low-cost radio frequency identification RFID tags.

With major retailers having indicated they will soon require RFID tags to replace bar codes as a more efficient means of tracking and controlling inventory, lower-cost non-silicon-based integrated circuits could significantly reduce the financial burden this change would impose on companies that supply products to retailers. Plastic-based chips may provide a solution, if they can be engineered to achieve the required level of performance.

At the Smart Labels conference in Boston, Massachusetts, Dr Paul Baude, who is heading the Pentacene RFID program at 3M, reported on the development of a multi-bit transponder on chips using pentacene, a vapour-coated organic semiconductor.

The circuits are patterned on a glass substrate with laser-ablated polymer shadow-masks. The transponders are directly powered by alternating current, eliminating the need for diodes.

Baude said these are significant milestones toward a commercially viable low-cost organic chip, but added that several technical challenges must still be overcome before organic semiconductors become a feasible substitute for silicon in RFID applications.

‘Pentacene-based RFID transponder development is at the R&D feasibility stage, and this work illustrates the utility of using these low-cost-based materials and manufacturing schemes for simple RFID applications,’ said Baude.