The UK-based Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) is aiming to accelerate the potential for wireless sensors in consumer packaging, defense, medical devices, and other industries with the development of a printed energy-harvesting device powered by near-field communication (NFC) technology.
The Centre, which fosters technology innovation particularly in the manufacturing sector, has launched the 18-month HaRFest project, which aims to develop a device that can be integrated into sensors, displays, and storage devices, according to a press release on its website.
PragmatIC Printing Ltd., which develops flexible integrated circuits, is leading the project with the CPI and the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Large-Area Electronics, which is being represented by academic partners the University of Cambridge and the Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating at Swansea University.
NFC enables electronic devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching the devices together or bringing them into proximity. The NFC device developed by the project will comprise a printed antenna with passive and active components, including an array of tuning capacitors, according to the CPI. This will allow the device to tune to resonant frequency and maximize the harvested power output, the Centre said.
One of the main challenges of the project will be to develop energy-harvesting technology that can scale up to the volumes and price points for market adoption, said Sandy Gunn, business development manager at CPI, in a press statement.
“The project brings together a strong consortium with varied and complementary expertise in printed electronics, logic circuitry, applications testing, and final device integration,” Gunn said. “Once concluded the project will spearhead the uptake of battery-free radio frequency-powered systems into intelligent packaging, anti-counterfeiting, and other fast-moving consumer goods products.”
The Internet of Things and Industrial IoT (IIoT) are providing myriad new opportunities to integrate high-volume, low-cost printed sensors into consumer products that are purchased every day. An energy harvester that can provide power to these sensors would be a boon for this potential, according to CPI.
Sensors that can keep track of temperature for climate-sensitive products, provide smart labels to ensure product security, or identify scenarios of product tampering are just a few of the applications for this technology. Others include interactive point-of-sale products and branding applications, and disposable printed bio-sensors that can be used in blood analysis, according to CPI.
“HaRFest addresses a wide range of potentially high-volume applications identified by PragmatIC’s customers, and we look forward to moving these into commercial production,” said Richard Price, chief operating officer, in a statement.
Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.