Ending Tetris in logistics

Chipless Radio Labels for Imprinting

Ending Tetris in logistics


The wagon is packed, once again the courier points the reader at the loading area, checking: everything on board, nothing forgotten. Printed radio labels without chips should make this possible in the future. The DruIDe* project, in which four Materials Chain members from the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) are playing a leading role, will not only result in a new technology, but also in two start-ups that will take care of the market launch.

Every year, billions of parcels are shipped worldwide - as individual shipments or deliveries for the retail trade. To date, each parcel has to be identified individually by its barcode: rotate it correctly, scan it, stack it sensibly in an offline version of the computer game classic Tetris.

It is much faster with a chipless label made of nanosilicon: The silicon comes in the form of nanoparticles from the NanoEnergieTechnikZentrum (NETZ) and the Institute for Energy and Environmental Technology (IUTA) at UDE. It is introduced into a special ink that can be printed directly onto the package using an inkjet printer and processed by laser into a functioning electronic circuit. "We are the first to print silicon nanoelectronics," explains Niels Benson, Professor of Printable Materials for Signal Processing Systems at UDE.

He and his colleagues Thomas Kaiser, Daniel Erni and Roland Schmechel work with five other institutions, including the University of Twente (Netherlands).

New technology saves material

The new technology not only makes life easier for logisticians and parcel carriers, it also saves a lot of material: trees. In contrast to the barcode, the RFID label ("radio-frequency identification") is reusable, and so is the parcel. Since it does not require a chip, its price is around €0.01, which is around five times cheaper than its conventional counterpart.

Prof. Thomas Kaiser knows the following about data protection: "A special reading device is required to read the label. It only works within a radius of about ten meters and only reveals that a certain ID is nearby."

Start-up: airCode

At the end of October, the six project partners from the Netherlands and Germany will present the innovation at the "RFID Tomorrow" trade fair in Darmstadt. The start-up 'airCode' has been officially working on the market launch of the technology since 8 October. "Our demonstration is still based on a few bits," says Kaiser. "We need 50 to 60 bits to differentiate between billions of objects. We are confident that we will have achieved this in five to ten years."

A new company is also being set up on the Dutch side, which will market the nano-ink.

*The DruIDe project is being implemented as part of the INTERREG programme Germany-Netherlands and is co-financed with over 3.1 million euros by the EU, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, the NRW Ministry of Economic Affairs and the State Chancellery of Lower Saxony.


Further information:
Faculty of Engineering Sciences:
Prof. Niels Benson, Tel. 0203/37 9-1058, niels.benson@uni-due.de
Prof. Thomas Kaiser, Tel. 0203/37 9-1873, thomas.kaiser@uni-due.de

Editor: Birte Vierjahn, Tel. 0203/37 9-2427, birte.vierjahn@uni-due.de