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Applications: It’s Smaller Than a Penny, and it Could Just Save Your Life

Photonics Spectra
Jan 2009
Krista D. Zanolli,

In the ever-evolving world of wireless sensor technology, the demand for smaller, more highly selective sensors is on the rise, and the market is extremely competitive. With an increased need to monitor and detect various pollutants in food packaging, water treatment and various products in health care, wireless sensors must overcome limitations such as size, sensitivity and cost.

GE Global Research has taken strides to meet those expectations with its new battery-free, multidetection radio-frequency identification (RFID) sensing platform. Touted as a “first of its kind” by the company, GE’s sensory technology overcomes not only response selectivity limitations but also the need for an onboard power source. Because GE’s sensors don’t require batteries, they can be designed to be smaller than a penny and manufactured at a very low cost.

Sensors without a battery can be designed to measure 1 cm or less in diameter, which is smaller than a penny. Photo courtesy of GE Global Research.

“Because these sensors can be made at such a low cost, they also can be made for one-time use,” said Radislav Potyrailo, a principal scientist at GE Global Research who leads this multidisciplinary wireless sensing development team. “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 been spoiled. This is just one of the new applications you can begin to consider with disposable, low-cost multidetection RFID sensors.”

According to GE Global Research, these sensors can detect trace concentrations of toxic gases such as industrial chemicals, volatile organic compounds and various chemicals in liquids. These new RFID sensors use conventional RFID tag, except that they are coated with a chemically or biologically sensitive film. The sensor reader can obtain several varied responses that allow it to identify and measure individual chemicals in different mixtures and in variable conditions.

“We believe GE’s battery-free wireless sensing platform will be a game-changer across many product platforms, including health care and medical applications,” Potyrailo said. “The single-use RFID sensors can be integrated into disposable medical components, which can include those used in hospitals, point-of-care and at a doctor’s office.

“These smaller, low-cost, highly selective chemical and biosensing capabilities will provide new breakthrough sensing opportunities that will open doors to many new, innovative applications,” Potyrailo added.

chemicalsindustrialradio-frequency identificationSensors & Detectorstoxic gasesTrendswireless sensor technology

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