Scientists at GE Global Research, the GE’s technology development division, have developed a battery-free, multi-detection RFID sensing platform based on traditional RFID tags. The new device could enable a wide range of low cost wireless sensing products for a variety of industries, including health care, security, food packaging, water treatment and pollution prevention.
The sensors begin with a conventional RFID tag, but are then coated with a chemically or biologically sensitive film. The design enables a single sensor to provide selective responses to multiple chemicals under variable conditions; the sensor reader can obtain several varied responses, enabling the sensor to identify and measure individual chemicals in different mixtures and variable conditions. GE’s sensors can detect trace concentrations of toxic gases such as toxic industrial chemicals, volatile organic compounds and chemicals in liquids.
The sensor’s power is obtained wirelessly from the sensor reader, allowing it to operate without batteries. The reader activates the sensor antenna and the RFID chip, then collects several response data parameters. The ability to selectively detect different chemicals with an individual sensor is based on the measurement of these parameters. Without the need for a battery, the sensors can be produced at a low cost and at sizes smaller than a penny.
GE researchers believe the sensors can be used for a variety of applications, including emissions monitoring at power plants, food and beverage safety monitoring both in transit and at home, and new security sensors for more effective monitoring of chemical or biological threats.
“Because these sensors can be made at such low cost, they also can be made for one-time use,” says Radislav Potyrailo, a principal scientist at GE Global Research. “Similar to how your groceries get scanned for a price, imagine pointing a handheld sensor reader at a milk carton or packaged food to see whether it has been spoiled. This is just one of the new applications you can begin to consider with disposable, low cost multi-detection RFID sensors.”