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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Gel battery boost for radio tags

Japanese company NEC has developed a lightweight, flexible battery that is less than a millimetre thick and can be recharged in half a minute.

It is called the Organic Radical Battery (ORB) and is based on a type of plastic that exists in a gel state.

The gel allows the battery to be extremely pliant, with a thickness of 300 microns.

ORBs could eventually be embedded into devices such as smart cards, wearable computers and intelligent paper.

Currently the battery, when in card form, can be recharged with a card reader device in 30 seconds.

The absence of harmful chemicals typically used in rechargeable batteries also makes it quite environmentally friendly, according to NEC.

Radio tags

The ORB has huge potential when combined with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags - tiny microchips that hold unique identifier information attached to a small antenna.

RFID tags are now finding wide use to keep track of items in the business supply chain - from the manufacturing floor to the retail outlet.

RFID tags fall into two categories - the more commonly found "passive" devices only respond to signals sent to it by a tag reader and have a shorter range.

"Active" tags on the other hand can transmit signals and can be read at greater distances but are larger and more expensive since they need a power source.

"If you can create a 'smart active label' - a thin label that broadcasts a signal as opposed to passively reflecting back energy from the reader - you could solve many of the readability problems people are struggling with now," said Mark Roberti, editor of RFID Journal.

"You could potentially put one of these labels on a case of coke in the middle of a pallet of coke and read it. That is not possible with passive tags because the energy from the reader is blocked by the metal."

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