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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Forget about check-out lines with new RFID

Researchers from Sunchon National University are hoping their method of making radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags will make check-out lines a thing of the past.

RFID tags are not new. The technology dates back to the World War II era and the devices themselves have been used for several decades. Today, RFID tags are found in lifestock, library books, toll road transponders, foot race timing chips and uncountable other places. One entomologist even glued tiny RFID tags to ants.

Gyoujin Cho and his colleagues from Sunchon National University, South Korea have invented a way to print out the tags in larger quantities. Rather than ink jet printers, Cho and his team have been using a rotogravure process. This ‘roll-to-roll’ technique adds the tags onto plastic foil. Instead of ink, the lab is using single-walled carbon nanotubes provided by James Tour (from Rice University), who is also advising Cho’s lab.

Credit: Gyou-Jin Cho/Sunchon National University

So far, the new tags work only at very short range and are too large for many applications. The researchers are working on reducing the size as well as increasing the range and the amount of information the tags can contain. Their ultimate goal is to allow shoppers to push their carts past scanners which will read all the tags at once and charge their credit cards.