Wireless Applications

GE Develops Battery-free, Multi-Detection RFID Sensors

October 17, 2008

The new sensors use a conventional RFID tag, coated with a chemically or biologically sensitive film, allowing them to identify and measure individual chemicals in different mixtures and conditions. The devices target food and beverage monitoring, remote water-purity testing, and security applications.

NISKAYUNA, NY /BUSINESS WIRE/ -- GE Global Research, the technology development arm of the General Electric (GE), announced a battery-free, multi-detection radio-frequency identification (RFID) sensing platform that could enable a wide range of low-cost wireless sensing products in healthcare, security, food packaging, water treatment, and pollution prevention. GE's unique RFID sensors are built on traditional RFID tags.

This "first-of-its-kind" sensing platform, in which a single sensor can provide a highly selective response to multiple chemicals, under variable conditions, operates without a battery. GE's sensor technology overcomes limitations in today's sensors, such as inadequate response selectivity and the need for an onboard power source. Without a battery, new sensors can be designed to be smaller than a penny and manufactured at very low cost. This could enable many exciting product applications, including:

  • new security sensors that more effectively can detect dangerous chemical and biological threats,


  • in-the-field water purification monitoring, checking for water impurities,


  • food and beverage safety monitoring, measuring the freshness of goods in transport or in the home,


  • portable vaccine manufacturing, ensuring the purity of a vaccine manufactured on-site during an emergency response to a flu outbreak or other potential pandemic,


  • emissions monitoring at power plants.

Radislav Potyrailo, a principal scientist at GE Global Research who leads this multidisciplinary wireless sensing development team, said, "We believe GE's battery-free wireless sensing platform will be a game-changer across many product platforms in healthcare, security, water and pollution prevention, to name a few. Without the need for batteries, we can make sensors that are much smaller in size and at substantially reduced costs. These attributes, combined with the sensors' highly selective chemical- and bio-sensing capabilities, provide new breakthrough sensing opportunities that will open the door to many new, innovative applications."

Potyrailo added, "Because these sensors can be made at such low cost, they also can be made for one-time use. Similar to how your groceries get scanned for a price, imagine pointing a handheld sensor reader at a milk carton or packaged food to see whether it has spoiled. This is just one of the new applications you can begin to consider with disposable, low-cost multi-detection RFID sensors."

These new RFID sensors use a conventional RFID tag, but are coated with a chemically or biologically sensitive film. The sensor reader can obtain several varied responses, which allows the sensor to identify and measure individual chemicals in different mixtures and variable conditions. GE's sensors can detect trace concentrations of toxic gases, such as toxic industrial chemicals, volatile organic compounds, and chemicals in liquids.

To operate without batteries, the power is obtained wirelessly from the sensor reader. The reader activates the sensor antenna and the RFID chip and collects several response data parameters. The measurement of these parameters provides the ability to selectively detect different chemicals with an individual sensor.

The development of GE's novel wireless sensing platform illustrates the power of GE technology to leverage multiple areas of technical expertise from across many disciplines represented at GE's Global Research Center. A multidisciplinary team comprised of analytical chemists, RF engineers, polymer scientists, and microfabrication engineers contributed to the development of the new platform.

About GE Global Research
GE Global Research is one of the world's most diversified industrial research labs, providing innovative technology for all of GE's businesses. Global Research has been the cornerstone of GE technology for more than 100 years, developing breakthrough innovations in areas such as medical imaging, energy generation technology, jet engines, and lighting. GE Global Research is headquartered in Niskayuna, NY, and has facilities in Bangalore, India; Shanghai, China; and Munich, Germany.

About GE
GE is a diversified global infrastructure, finance, and media company that is built to meet essential world needs. From energy, water, transportation, and health to access to money and information, GE serves customers in more than 100 countries and employs more than 300,000 people worldwide.

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