Carbon Nanotube Infused Ink in Radiofrequency Identification Tags

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Carbon Nanotube Infused Ink is being used to create Radiofrequency Identification Tags, which are printable trasmitters that allow for quick scanning/checkout when buying goods. The ink is used in ink-jet printers, which are used to print the film transistors onto paper or plastic.  The ink itself is composed of carbon naotubes  and other metallic nanoparticles that are then coated in a polymer sheath, preventing the metallic nanostructures from making the ink fully conducting.  The result is a semiconducting ink composed of coated bulk nanoparticles that can be used to make printed circuits and RFID tags.

RFIDs work by encoding data through electromagnetic conduction or as signals emitted through radio waves. The RFID's are currently being used to track products, animals, library books, passports, and are also seen in EZ-pass or similar electronic payment for toll roads. Using the Carbon Nanotube Infused Ink allows for the price of printing tags to dramatically decrease.


RFID tags have become ubiquitous, working as modern-day barcodes, price tags, or other tracking information labeling.  These RFID tags come in three flavors, passive, semi-passive, and active tags.  The passive tags which are the cheapest and most common do not include a battery, but are charged by a signal emitted at a specific radio frequency that generates enough power for the tag to signal back with whatever information was encoded onto the tag.  Semi passive and active RFID tags use traditional RFID tags attached to batteries to periodically transmit information to a RFID reader.  

Common on-market applications for RFID tags include bus and other public transportation passes, credit cards, national IDs (passports, licenses, etc.), security badges, and tracking tags for security and inventory tracking purposes.  Increasingly popular is the combination of RFID technology with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.  NFC allows for RFID tags to store account inforation and other data and transmit this data in a secure manner by touching them to phones, ultrabooks, vending machines, atms, checkout devices and other devices equipped with NFC chips.


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Single-walled carbon nanotubes are used to print thin-film transistors onto plastic foil. When the printed tags are scanned/hit by certain radio waves, the information contained on the tag is emitted into a system.



Benefit Summary: 

Advancements in RFID technology are increasing the speed, accuracy and convenience of tracking all types of materials and living things. RFID technoogy enhancements are also allowing for greater data transmission and storage capacity, enabling emerging technologies like NFC. These technologies could revolutionalize security, commerce and society by increasing resource efficiency, improving tracking and scanning, improving identification and spurring overall economic growth.

Risk Summary: 

The risk profile for technological innovation in tagging and identification is complex. There are potential ethical and moral risks associated with RFID technology and its potential impacts on privacy and identification. These create ambiguity in defining risks to the human condition, but identify a need for strong governance frameworks in emerging nanotechnologies. The human health and ecological risks associated with this technology are somewhat better understood and relate mostly to the primary production of the CNTs. CNTs can pierce cell walls, making them cytotoxic to living organisms. In humans, this may lead to cancer, lung disease and cardio vascular effects as a result to inhalation and cardiopulmonary exposure. CNTs are also very hard to break down in the environment, creating bioaccumulation risks related to the fate and transport of these nanomaterials.

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