Graphene Enables Fully Flexible NFC Antennas

According a report out today by Graphene Flagship, a public research institution in Italy, the CNR-ISOF, has shown that it's possible to use graphene to produce fully flexible NFC antennas.

The potential use cases for such technology range from wearables to smart packaging. All with the the significant added benefits of being cheaper, more durable and more environmentally friendly.

About Graphene

Graphene is an extraordinary material. It's essentially a single layer of graphite in an immensely strong but flexible structure. Graphene is also a superb conductor which is clearly useful in an NFC antenna but extremely light and 200 times stronger than steel. It's clever stuff.

Scientists had known of the existence of graphene for a long time. However, in 2004, two researchers at the University of Manchester, Prof Andre Geim and Pro Kostya Novoselov, managed to isolate it. Their work earned them a Nobel Prize. Since then, a huge amount of research has been undertaken to find how Graphene can be used.

Graphene In NFC Antennas

An NFC antenna is, put simply, a length of wire acting as a inductor converting nearby magnetic fields into energy. Typically, an antenna is either a layer of etched aluminium in a coil design or a single copper wire wound in a loop. One of the significant barriers to reducing the costs of NFC tags and therefore increasing their widespread usage is the manufacturing process and cost of materials required in making and bonding the antenna.

Vincenzo Palermo, Graphene Flagship leader of the Polymer Composites research area and group leader of the Nano-Chemistry laboratory in the Institute for Organic Synthesis and Photoreactivity of National Research Council (CNR) commented: "A key target for modern technology is to replace metals with lighter, cheaper, less energy-consuming and better recyclable materials. "

Use Cases

The obvious use case here is in interactive wearable technology where graphene's ability to flex thousands of times will create a more durable antenna than traditional metals. However, it's thin and flexible nature also lends itself to interactive smart packaging and marketing. There have been a number of attempts to integrate NFC into paper with varying degrees of success. A fully flexible, ultra-thin and more environmentally friendly material such a graphene could just be the way forward.