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Graphene antenna ‘could deliver cheap, flexible sensors’

Scientists at The University of Manchester have revealed a graphene antenna capable of delivering cheaper, more powerful and more sustainable RFID tags and wireless sensors.

antennaMade from compressed graphene ink, the antenna is flexible, environmentally friendly and could be cheaply mass-produced, paving the way for wearable wireless devices and sensors.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags wirelessly transfer data in a vast range of everyday objects, from car assembly to tracking household pets. Graphene, the world’s strongest, thinnest and most conductive material, could dramatically increase the conductivity of RFID tags.

In addition, the researchers claim it could deliver far cheaper devices by printing onto materials like paper or plastic, rather than more expensive metals such as aluminum or copper.

Practical applications could include a wireless supermarket scanner that adds up trolley contents as you shop, more effective and sensitive security systems and smarter tracking of personal items and belongings.

The team, led by Dr. Zhirun Hu, and which also included University of Manchester Nobel laureates Sir Andre Geim and Sir Kostya Novoselov, tested their compressed graphene laminate by printing a graphene antenna onto a piece of paper.

The researchers present their results in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

Dr. Zhirun Hu said: “We started to work on these antenna only recently, but even our first results prove that this technology is already better than the ones currently used.”

Sir Kostya said: “At the National Graphene Institute at The University of Manchester we have a programme on printable electronics and printable graphene RFID are only the first product of many. We are intensively testing other 2D materials for similar applications.

Graphene ink is low cost and flexible, giving it advantages of other inks. The researchers increased the conductivity of graphene ink by printing and drying it, and then compressing it with a roller. This increased its conductivity by more than 50 times.

Xianjun Huang, who is the first author of the paper, added:  “Graphene based RFID tags can significantly reduce the cost thanks to a much simpler process and lower material cost.”

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