CPI reveals plans for NFC-powered printed energy harvester

Richard Stuart-Turner
Friday, September 18, 2015

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) has formed part of a UK-based consortium to develop a mass-market printed energy-harvesting device powered via near-field communication.

The UK-based technology innovation centre said the device will facilitate the wider adoption of NFC-enabled applications in consumer packaging, document and brand security.

The aim of the 18-month Innovate UK project, titled ‘HaRFest’, is to develop and scale up production of the energy-harvesting device, which will house a printed antenna alongside printed passive and active components.

The device will be able to soak up and retain energy from devices such as mobile phones held at close proximity and then use that stored energy to power small sensors incorporated into items such as POS products and branding, disposable printed bio-sensors used in blood analysis and printed smart labels that allow for identification and anti-counterfeiting purposes.

Printed sensors can also be designed to indicate the validity or quality of a product or whether the packaging has been tampered with during its transport and storage prior to purchase.

CPI business development manager Sandy Gunn said new opportunities are opening up to integrate high-volume, low-cost printed sensors into everyday items.

He said: “The key to this project is to absorb energy from exterior sources, put it into a usable form and use that to do something.

“It could be a sticky label on a chicken pack to show if it’s been left out of the freezer at any time or a label on a wall that could test temperature, humidity or gas sensitivity within a household environment or a factory unit once a mobile phone is held up against it.”

He added: “The challenge ahead is to develop the energy-harvesting technology, which is proven at laboratory scale, and to move it towards the volumes and price points that facilitate mass-market adoption.

“Once concluded the project will spearhead the uptake of battery-free radio frequency powered systems into intelligent packaging, anti-counterfeiting and other FMCG products.

“The point of our work is not to make a one-off or 10 of these but to make 10,000 and look at how to make them quickly, reproducibly, using proper industrial printing processes and for as low a cost as possible.”

The project is led by flexible integrated circuit manufacturer PragmatIC and also involves the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Large-Area Electronics, which is represented by its academic partners University of Cambridge and the Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating (Swansea University).

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