Researchers at The University of Manchester have developed graphene sensors that can be embedded into Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). The team has used the breakthrough to devise remote humidity sensors capable of drawing power from any wireless network.
RFID tags are most commonly used to track and identify objects as they travel through a supply chain. But when embedded with sensors, they can detect and transmit information regarding temperature, movement and even radiation – without the need for a dedicated source of power.
Not all environments are suitable for conventional methods of data gathering. Some are wet, some are hazardous. Some are just inconvenient. When combined with sensors, RFID technology enables data to be more easily collected from these locations. The RFID devices harvest power from local wireless networks and transmit information back to a central IT system.
A team of researchers from the University of Manchester have developed RFID systems embedded with graphene sensors, which they propose have the potential to ‘revolutionise the Internet of Things’.
Graphene RFID sensors: low-cost option for mass production
In 2004, researchers at the same university isolated graphene as the world’s first two-dimensional material. It is stronger than steel, lightweight, flexible and more conductive than copper. Ever since, the challenge has been to find real-world applications for the technology.
In a paper published to Scientific Reports, Manchester University researchers unveil a design that layers a derivative of graphene, graphene oxide, to form flexible heterostructure humidity sensors that can connect to and garner power from any wireless network.
Using graphene and other 2D materials, the team has been able to stack layers of these materials in sequences that create high-performance structures.
RFID sensors to track moisture, food safety and nuclear waste
RFID sensors are central to the future of the IoT. This latest development from the University of Manchester could pave the way for a range of applications. These include battery-free, wireless monitoring in manufacturing environments sensitive to moisture, food safety during transit, healthcare and nuclear waste.
Dr Zhirun Hu, who led the project, pointed out that this was only the beginning. “The excitement does not end with this new application here, but leads to the future possibilities of integrations of this technique with other 2D materials to open up a new horizon of wireless sensing applications.”
Professor Sir Kostya Novoselov, a winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics and coordinator of the project, highlighted the importance of 2D materials to the future of the IoT.
“It is the first example of the printable technology where several 2D materials come together to create a functional device immediately suitable for industrial applications. The Internet of Things is the fast growing segment of technology, and I’m sure that 2D materials will play an important role there.”