August 10, 2012
New Digital Printing Technique For Smartphones Super Efficient
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Korean scientists have developed a newspaper-style printing technique that will allow for the exchange of digital information at a cost of one penny per unit.
The device, called a rectenna, harnesses power from radio waves given off by a mobile phone, converting them from AC to DC. This ability allows the rectenna to transmit information to a mobile phone or other electronic device with a simple swipe.
“What is great about this technique is that we can also print the digital information onto the rectenna, meaning that everything you need for wireless communication is in one place,” said co-author of the study Gyoujin Cho, an engineer at Sunchon National University in Korea.
According the scientists´ report in the journal Nanotechnology, a rectenna placed onto everyday objects such as price tags, logos and signage can generate 0.3 W of power from an alternating current source which had a frequency of 13.56 MHz.
This type of technology, which is known as near-field communication (NFC), is already being used to perform some financial transactions. However, this low-cost printing technique could lead to the adoption of the technology on a wide scale.
Some have speculated that low-cost NFC could be used in much the same way as QR codes, the square-shaped bar code often found on packaging or advertisements. The difference is that smartphone users will activate a reader and swipe their phone to read the rectenna instead of photographing or scanning the QR code.
In the Nanotechnology study, the scientists were able to print rectennas using roll-to-roll presses at a rate of about 26 feet per minute. The process, also called rotogravure, uses an engraved cylinder and was once a staple in the newspaper industry.
Five different electronic inks were used to print the devices onto plastic foils in large batches and each rectenna had a length of around 1300 mm and is composed of and antenna, a diode, and a capacitor.
“Our advantage over current technology is lower cost, since we can produce a roll-to-roll printing process with high throughput in an environmentally friendly manner,” said Cho. “Furthermore, we can integrate many extra functions without huge extra cost in the printing process.”
“The application of NFC technology with the smartphone will be limitless in the near future,” he added. “The medical, automotive, military and aerospace industries will benefit greatly.”
NFC technology is an update on RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology that uses radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data from a tag attached to an object, like the transit passes used by several major cities.
Both types of tags can be used to track objects or send information, but NFC allows two-way communication. While an RFID tag can only be read, but NFC devices can be send information back and forth between tag and reader.
This advent of low-cost NFC technology opens the door to both the multi-billion dollar mobile phone industry and app developers looking to cash in their innovative ideas. The technology is already in use, with NFC-enabled financial transactions approaching $50 billion, but cost barriers have prevented wide scale adoption.