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French Researchers, Paper Company Release NFC Printing Method on Paper

A doctoral thesis at the University of Grenoble Alpes identifies three methods of printing electronics for Near Field Communication tags directly onto paper; the system is now being offered by French paper company PowerCoat.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 19, 2017

Researchers at the University of Grenoble Alpes have developed a method for printing the electronics in a Near Field Communication (NFC) 13.56 MHz RFID tag, using metal-based inks on PowerCoat paper. The system was tested with two printing methods and three sintering methods for conductive ink to create the tag's loop antenna. The work was conducted with researcher Mohamed Saadaoui, of the Ecole des Mines de Saint-Etienne, Centre de Microélectronique de Provence, in Gardanne.

The research was conducted as a doctoral thesis for Victor Thénot, sponsored by paper company Arjowiggins, using PowerCoat, an Arjowiggins brand of paper products designed for the printing of electronic circuitry.

Nadège Reverdy-Bruas (Photo: Pierre Jayet)
The project, titled "Printing and Selective Sintering of Metal based Inks on Paper; Optimization of Electrical Properties of RFID-HF Loops for Industrial Production," leverages a smooth paper substrate designed specifically for printed elections. Thénot's doctoral thesis defense took place in July, 2017, and is now being released in the form of a paper.

Most NFC tags and other passive RFID tags are built from etched copper or aluminum antennas and a chip applied to polyimide substrates, or PET, PEN or PVC material. Alternatively, if the electronics are printed, that is typically accomplished using conductive inks on a plastic substrate. However, the Grenoble Alpes researchers note that both the printed and non-printed versions of tags, with the plastic substrate, have a significant carbon footprint.

The group sought to find a way to provide a renewable solution, explains Denis Curtil, a research engineer at the University of Grenoble Alpes, with printed RFID tags on paper, that offered a good performance rate. They designed the printable tag system to offer tag makers a paper alternative to plastic, non-recyclable materials more typically used in RFID tags, he says.

Cellulose fibers present in paper serve as the most abundant polymer on Earth, the researchers say, and provide a renewable source that can serve as a substrate for printed electronics. "The substrate being paper, this resource is bio-based, renewable and recyclable," says Nadège Reverdy-Bruas, an associate professor at the University of Grenoble Alpes and the project's supervisor. "Another advantage is its low cost compared to other substrates dedicated to printed electronics."

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