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Imec, Holst Centre and Cartamundi Introduce Plastic NFC Tag Communicating with Smartphones

February 7, 2017

The NFC tag is manufactured using IGZO thin-film transistors on a plastic substrate.

At the 2017 International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, imec, Holst Centre (established by imec and TNO) and Cartamundi demonstrated a world-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 innovative NFC tag is manufactured in a thin-film transistor technology using indium gallium zinc oxide thin-film transistors (IGZO TFT) on a plastic substrate.
Plastic electronics offers an appealing vision of low-cost smart electronic devices in applications where silicon chips were never imagined before. Item-level identification, smart food packaging, brand protection and electronic paper are just a few examples. Such new applications will require a continuous supply of countless disposable devices.  Imec’s 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.
 “This innovative hardware solution of plastic NFC tags opens up several new possibilities for NFC deployments,” stated Alexander Mityashin, program manager at imec. “Thanks to the nature of thin-film plastics, the new tags can be made much thinner and they are mechanically very robust. Moreover, the self-aligned IGZO TFT technology offers manufacturing of chips in large volumes and at low cost.”
The results were presented in paper 15.2 (“A Flexible ISO14443-A Compliant 7.5mW 128b Metal-Oxide NFC Barcode Tag with Direct Clock Division Circuit from 3.56MHz Carrier”, by K. Myny, Y.-C Lai, N. Papadopoulos, F. De Roose, M. Ameys, M. Willegems, S. Smout, S. Steudel, W. Dehaene, J. Genoe, Feb. 7, 2017).