Battery-Free RFID Sensors Based on Graphene Could Revolutionize the Internet of Things

Researchers at The University of Manchester have developed RFID sensors based on graphene that can operate without batteries and are cost effective. By layering graphene-oxide (a derivative of graphene) over graphene, to create a flexible heterostructure, the team has developed humidity sensors for remote sensing with the ability to connect to any wireless network. These type of sensors are ideal for the Internet of Things (IoT)

Graphene was the world’s first two-dimensional material isolated in 2004 at The University of Manchester. It is stronger than steel, lightweight, flexible and more conductive than copper. Since then a whole family of other 2D materials have been discovered and continue to grow.

Using graphene and other 2D materials, scientists can layer these materials, similar to stacking bricks of Lego in a precisely chosen sequence known as van der Waals heterostructure to create high-performance structures tailored to a specific purpose. As reported in Scientific Reports, the groundbreaking nature of this development is that such sensors can be printed layer-by-layer for scalable and mass production at very low cost. The device also requires no battery source as it harvests power from the receiver.

Sensors with a RFID enabler are at the heart of the IoT. This new development can provide various applications such as battery-free smart wireless monitoring for manufacturing processes that are sensitive to moisture, food safety, healthcare and nuclear waste. The developed technique has the potential to simplify how the information is gathered through its wireless system, nor is it is limited to a particular wireless network and has the ability to be compatible with networks including WiFi and 5G.

Dr. Zhirun Hu who led the work said that the excitement does not end with this new application here, but leads to the future possibilities of integrations of this technique with other 2D materials to open up a new horizon of wireless sensing applications. According to fellow project co-coordinator and a Physics Nobel Prize Winner, Professor Sir Kostya Novoselov, it is the first example of the printable technology where several 2D materials come together to create a functional device immediately suitable for industrial applications. IoT is the fast growing segment of technology, and he is sure that 2D materials will play an important role there.

Advanced materials is one of The University of Manchester’s research beacons - examples of pioneering discoveries, interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships that are tackling some of the biggest questions facing the planet.