October 15, 2008 GE Global Research has announced a new type of radio-frequency identification (RFID) sensor that by-passes the need for on-board batteries by drawing power wirelessly from a hand-held reading device. The significance of the design is that it facilitates the manufacture of much smaller sensors at low cost, opening up a new range of potential applications from measuring the freshness of packaged food goods to more effective detection of biological threats.
The new sensor platform uses a conventional RFID tag but are coated with a chemically or biologically sensitive film, enabling several varied responses to be obtained by the reader, which activates the sensor antenna and collects response data parameters. These include identification of individual chemicals in different mixtures and variable conditions or trace concentrations of toxic gases.
GE says the multi-detection sensors can be designed to be smaller than a penny and could enable numerous low cost wireless sensing products in healthcare, security, food packaging, water treatment and emissions monitoring. This would include scenarios where, for example, the freshness of the milk in your refrigerator could be ascertained with a hand held reader, or the the purity of a vaccine manufactured on-site during an emergency response to a flu outbreak could be determined.
“We believe GE’s battery-free wireless sensing platform will be a game-changer across many product platforms in healthcare, security, water and pollution prevention, to name a few," said Radislav Potyrailo, a principal scientist at GE Global Research who leads this multidisciplinary wireless sensing development team. "Without the need for batteries, we can make sensors that are much smaller in size and at substantially reduced costs. These attributes, combined with the sensors’ highly selective chemical and bio sensing capabilities, provide new breakthrough sensing opportunities that will open the door to many new, innovative applications.”