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By Beth Bacheldor

NC State Profession Studying Ways to Reduce Cost of RFID Chips

North Carolina State University has announced that Paul Franzon, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the college, has been awarded $445,713 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct research on AC-powered digital circuits and ways to reduce the cost of RFID chips. The research is exploring ways in which to eliminate most of the circuitry required for managing the recovered power on a chip, which has the potential to reduce chip cost by about one-third, the university reports.

Dr. Paul Franzon
At the core of Franzon's research proposal is a new circuit structure (which works with EPC Gen 2 RFID frequencies in the 860 to 960 MHz range) that permits digital and some analog operations to be performed from an AC, rather than DC, power supply. Typically, RFID generally requires that 25 percent to 33 percent of the circuit area be given over to RF-DC power conversion, and provides for conversion efficiencies in the 25 percent to 50 percent range. In comparison, the university explains, the proposed circuit structure would enable RFID chips to be built with almost no conversion overhead, and with very high conversion efficiency.

While the proposed innovation would not lead to a 2-cent tag, NC State reports, it has the potential to reduce the silicon tag area by around 25 percent—which, in turn, leads to a tag cost reduction of 10 percent. Another variant of this technology permits tags to operate at high efficiency, and thus low RF or magnetic power levels. As well as investigating low-cost and low-power operation, Franzon will consider this technology's potential to be an RFID sensor suited for cold-food chain applications. The NSF award will run from Aug. 1, 2014, to July 31, 2017.

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