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Philips Demos Polymer HF Tags

Using polymers instead of silicon to build integrated circuits, Philips researchers say they have created fully functional RFID tags capable of transmitting data at 13.56 MHz.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Feb 07, 2006Philips Research, the research arm of Philips Electronics, says it has successfully created a high-frequency (13.56 MHz) RFID tag using polymer-based chip instead of a silicon one. Paper-thin and roughly the size of a postage stamp, the tag includes a printed metallic-ink antenna. Philips used photolithography to build the integrated circuit, following steps similar to those for creating silicon chips.

The next hurdle that Philips—and other companies that are developing the technology behind polymer-based tags—face is finding a way to print the 13.56 MHz chips, rather than using conventional lithography processes. In November 2004, Andreas Ullmann, senior research scientist at German printed-electronics firm Poly IC, told RFID Journal that his company had managed to print a tag capable of operating at 125 KHz (see Developing Tomorrow's Tags).

Philps' 13.56 MHz plastic RFID tag.

Antennas can already be printed using metallic inks. If complete polymer-based tags could be printed in large quantities, they could serve as a low-cost means of tagging high volumes of goods at the item level.

Philips Research, which announced its success with the 13.56 MHz polymer tag this week at International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco this week, claims it is the first organization to achieve a fully functional HF polymer tag. However, PolyIC says it announced a fully functional 13.56 MHz polymer tag in October 2005.

Leo Warmerdam, senior director at Philips Research, acknowledges that Poly IC did create a functioning 13.56 MHz polymer tag before Philips did, but maintains the PolyIC tag is capable of transmitting only a single, unchangeable string of data, whereas the Philips prototype can store and transmit unique data. "The PolyIC tag can be stimulated by a reader and respond by saying, 'Here I am,'" he explains, "but our tag can respond with a unique code, as if saying, 'I am x.'"

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