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Researchers Find Biologics Not Harmed by RFID RF Signals

This finding results from a two-year study conducted by two universities and eight biopharmaceutical companies, to test any adverse effects to protein in the products following 24 hours' exposure to 8 watts of RF transmission.
By Claire Swedberg
The scientists built an anechoic chamber that included interior walls lined with a solid, pyramidal shaped, carbon-loaded urethane foam absorber designed to prevent external ambient radio waves from entering the chamber. The chamber was set up at the University of Florida's cold room (to ensure that temperature-sensitive products did not become too warm during testing) operated by the school's Center for Food Distribution and Retailing.

The University of South Florida Polytechnic's Ismail Uysal
Inside the chamber, researchers installed a table consisting of a pair of parallel RF-lucent shelves. On the top shelf, they placed an antenna cabled to high-power RF signal-generating hardware (consisting of function and signal generators) to emulate a typical RF reader signal, as well as RF power amplifiers, while the lower shelf was used to hold the biologic product. The antenna and product were spaced approximately 22 centimeters (8.7 inches) apart. Researchers boosted the power to 8 watts—the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approves a maximum of 4 watts for RFID RF frequencies—to test the technology at a higher power rate than that used by typical applications. The RF hardware was then set to transmit at 8 watts for 24 hours at one of the five RF frequency bands, in order to create a "worst-case scenario," in terms of RF exposure.

For every product tested, the drug companies provided six samples—one for each of the five frequency bands, along with a sixth non-exposed sample to serve as a control. After the testing was completed, the products were then sent back to the pharmaceutical firms for analysis.

When the research group first presented preliminary details about its research last year—at IEEE RFID 2010, an event collocated at RFID Journal LIVE! 2010—only two pharmaceutical companies, contributing a total of 15 products for the study, had completed their own analyses of the biologic samples and provided their results, which the researchers then discussed with members of the FDA.

Since that time, all of the companies' results have come in. "There was no effect," Uysal says, indicating that none of the companies found any damage to protein structure in any of the 100 products studied.

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