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Toray Industries Inc announced that it has become the first in the world to communicate wirelessly across the UHF (ultrahigh frequency) band (see note 1) with a printed semiconductor. This setup employs a printed radio-frequency identifier (RFID) (note 2) that the company created. The RFID employs a high-performance semi-conductive carbon nanotube composite (note 3).
Toray's achievement demonstrated the potential for manufacturing UHF RFIDs by low-cost printing processes to dramatically streamline retail and logistics operations. Examples include automating cash registers and efficient inventory management. The company will accelerate development to commercialize printed RFIDs. RFID should greatly enhance work efficiency in retailing and logistics because it offers long-distance communication, batch reading, and other benefits. However, conventional silicon RFID tags have not become widespread because of their cost existing integrated circuit (IC) chips (note 4) that are expensive, as they are made with complex processes employing high temperatures and vacuum environment. IC chip mounting processes are also needed. This situation drove efforts to manufacture low-cost ICs and mounting process-free printed semiconductors, such as organic semiconductors.
The challenges over many years, however, have been a mobility of just 20 cm2/Vs which is far from application to UHF RFIDs. Toray has engaged in R&D on RFIDs with printed materials, focusing on high-performance carbon nanotube composites. The semiconductor announced today delivers a mobility of 182 cm2/Vs—a new world record. While thin film transistors (TFTs) are either p-type (positively charged) or n-type (negatively charged), carbon nanotubes are normally p-type. Toray employed proprietary material technology to develop an n-type feature, realizing both p- and n-type TFTs that would be necessary to form power-saving, low-cost ICs. For more information see the IDTechEx report on RFID Forecasts, Players and Opportunities 2019-2029.
The company fabricated an RFID prototype incorporating a 24-bit memory with a low-cost printing technology by adopting this new material and proprietary device and process technologies. It was thereby able to communicate wirelessly with UHF waves across a distance of 20 cm, becoming the first in the world as a printed UHF RFID. Toray's product goal is to materialize a 60-bit memory. By popularizing its new low-cost coated RFIDs in retailing and logistics, it will be able to promote product data collection and sharing, dramatically enhancing overall supply chain efficiency.
The company will endeavor to improve communication performance, including communication distance, while developing on-film manufacturing technologies, in driving to commercialize printed RFIDs. Toray's research in this area was supported in part by "Low Carbon Technology Research and Development Program" of Japan's Ministry of the Environment. Toray will combine its core polymer chemistry and nanotechnology to early establish printed RFID technology and thereby contribute streamline operations in the retailing and logistics fields, which is suffering from severe labor shortages. The company will endeavor to develop cutting-edge materials that can change our lives in keeping with its commitment, "contributing to society through the creation of new value with innovative ideas, technologies and products."
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