From hotel towels to soccer jerseys, just about everything seems to be tagged with radio frequency identification (RFID) chips these days. Now scientists have developed a way to embed these chips in paper, which could pave the way for so-called smart money.
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Developed by a team of researchers from North Dakota State University, the RFID-equipped smart paper could potentially be used in legal documents, tickets, package labels and banknotes. Researchers say the technology could help prevent fraud and counterfeiting.
While RFID-equipped paper already exists, other versions on the market rely on thicker chips, resulting in bulky and bumpy paper that can't be printed. However, researchers at North Dakota State developed a process called Laser Enabled Advanced Packaging that creates ultra-thin silicon chips that can be seamlessly embedded in paper.
The process uses a plasma etcher to thin down the chips, then uses a laser beam pulse to insert the chips, as well as antennas, directly into the paper.
Project leader Val Marinov said the process is cheap than current manufacturing methods because less materials are being used and equipment is less expensive. Not only that, the process is twice as fast as other methods.
"About ten years ago the Bank of Japan and the European bank signaled their intention to develop such technology but they aren't there yet," Marinov told the BBC. "I believe our scheme is the first to demonstrate a functional RFID tag embedded in paper."
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Marinov and his team recently presented their work at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers conference on RFID in Orlando, Fla. They are currently seeking commercial investors.
"The technology needs to leave the lab and find a place in industry," Marinov said.
Credit: North Dakota State University Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering