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Graphene antenna ‘could deliver cheap, flexible sensors’

20 May 2015

Scientists at The University of Manchester have revealed a graphene antenna capable of delivering cheaper, more powerful and more sustainable RFID tags and wireless sensors.

Printed on paper, the graphene antenna promises cheaper, flexible RFID tags
Printed on paper, the graphene antenna promises cheaper, flexible RFID tags

Made from compressed graphene ink, the antenna is flexible, environmentally friendly and could be cheaply mass-produced, paving the way for wearable wireless devices and sensors.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags wirelessly transfer data in a vast range of everyday objects, from car assembly to tracking household pets. Graphene, the world’s strongest, thinnest and most conductive material, could dramatically increase the conductivity of RFID tags.

In addition, the researchers claim it could deliver far cheaper devices by printing onto materials like paper or plastic, rather than more expensive metals such as aluminum or copper.

Practical applications could include a wireless supermarket scanner that adds up trolley contents as you shop, more effective and sensitive security systems and smarter tracking of personal items and belongings.

The team, led by Dr. Zhirun Hu, and which also included University of Manchester Nobel laureates Sir Andre Geim and Sir Kostya Novoselov, tested their compressed graphene laminate by printing a graphene antenna onto a piece of paper.

The researchers present their results in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

Dr. Zhirun Hu said: “We started to work on these antenna only recently, but even our first results prove that this technology is already better than the ones currently used.”

Sir Kostya said: “At the National Graphene Institute at The University of Manchester we have a programme on printable electronics and printable graphene RFID are only the first product of many. We are intensively testing other 2D materials for similar applications.”

Graphene ink is low cost and flexible, giving it advantages of other inks. The researchers increased the conductivity of graphene ink by printing and drying it, and then compressing it with a roller. This increased its conductivity by more than 50 times.

Xianjun Huang, who is the first author of the paper, added:  “Graphene based RFID tags can significantly reduce the cost thanks to a much simpler process and lower material cost.”

Notes for editors

The paper, Binder-free Highly Conductive Graphene Laminate for Low Cost Printed Radio Frequency Applications," by Xianjun Huang, Ting Leng, Xiao Zhang, Jia Cing Chen, Kuo Hsin Chang, Andre K. Geim, Kostya S. Novoselov, and Zhirun Hu, (DOI: 10.1063/1.4919935) is available from the Press Office and can be accessed at http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/apl/106/20/10.1063/1.4919935

Images of the antenna are available from the Press Office.

More information about graphene can be found at www.graphene.manchester.ac.uk

Dr Hu is available for interview on request.

For more information please contact:
Daniel Cochlin
Graphene Communications and Marketing Manager
The University of Manchester
0161 275 8382
07917 506158
www.graphene.manchester.ac.uk  
www.manchester.ac.uk
Twitter: @UoMGraphene