Researchers develop technique for integrating NFC chips with printed electronics for flexible active smart tags

High performance paper-based NFC tag developed for a wide range of use cases
ACTIVE TAGS: The hybrid technique for integrating solid NFC chips with printed circuits on flexible materials overcomes the difficulties inherent in current approaches

Researchers at the University of Glasgow in the UK have developed a hybrid technique for “robustly” integrating solid NFC chips with printed circuits on flexible materials such as fabric and paper that could “extend the effective use of flexible electronics in applications such as smart tags, IoT wearables, robotics, ultrathin displays, healthcare and so on” by enabling the development of active tags.

The hybrid integration technique overcomes the difficulties inherent in current approaches to integrating NFC chips and other surface-mounted technology (SMT) components with printed electronics on flexible substrates that “make it challenging to develop active tags” and mean that to date smart RFID and NFC tags and labels have been “mainly passive or chipless”, the researchers from the university’s Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies group say.

The technique “could add significant value to smart RFID tags and labels” and offer “a potential solution for several other applications of flexible electronics where high performance cannot be achieved by printed electronics alone”.

It would also allow “low-cost resource-efficient fabrication” of flexible tags, reduce the amount of waste generated during their production and enable the use of biodegradable substrate materials  such as paper”, leading to flexible smart tags with ‘green hybrid electronics’,” according to the group’s research paper.

The researchers found that photographic paper was a “suitable substrate for connecting the IC with low-temperature solder paste”, trialled different antenna configurations, and tested the paper-based NFC smart tags for flexibility, sensitivity and overall performance.

“The results show that the hybrid integration is a promising approach to fabricate low-cost and environmentally friendly paper-based NFC tags. This will also help reduce to some extent the end-of-life environment impact of smart tags and electronics,” the paper adds.

The Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies group unveiled an NFC-enabled smart bandage that aids healing and could be used to detect Covid-19 symptoms in April 2021. 

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