Research centre Imec has teamed up with Holst Centre and Cartamundi to develop what it claimed as the world's first thin-film tag on plastic, compatible with the near field communication (NFC) Barcode protocol, a subset of ISO14443-A, which is available as standard in many commercial smartphones.

The NFC tag is manufactured in a thin-film transistor technology using indium gallium zinc oxide thin-film transistors (IGZO TFT) on a plastic substrate, according to the group.

Plastic electronics offers an appealing vision of low-cost smart electronic devices in applications where silicon chips were never imagined before, including item-level identification, smart food packaging, brand protection and electronic paper. However, such new applications will require a continuous supply of countless disposable devices. Imecʼs IGZO TFT technology uses large-area manufacturing processes that allow for inexpensive production in large quantities—an ideal technology for ubiquitous electronic devices in the Internet of Everything.

“Making a plastic electronics device compatible to the ISO standard originally designed for silicon CMOS was a very challenging research and development expedition,” said Kris Myny, senior researcher at Imec.

The researchers developed a self-aligned TFT architecture with scaled devices optimised for low parasitic capacitance and high cut-off frequency. This allowed design of a clock division circuit to convert incoming 13.56MHz carrier frequency into system clock of the plastic chip. Optimisations at logic gate and system level have reduced power consumption down to 7.5mW, enabling readout by commercial smartphones, according to the group.