The current devices have a large footprint relative to their storage capacity. By increasing the storage density in collaboration with PARC, Thin Film hopes to make a printed memory product that can be integrated with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags for use in disposable packaging to store information about an individual item’s history. Today, this requires silicon chips, which are too expensive to implement widely. However, cheaper devices could hold information about the history of, for example, individual bags of spinach, rather than about pallets that hold many boxes of bagged spinach. And more cell phones are expected to begin integrating near-field communications devices that will enable them to act as a contactless credit card and read ubiquitous RFID tags on things like bags of spinach.
To improve the storage density of the printed memory devices, Thin Film will integrate PARC’s printed transistors. This will reduce the total number of electrical contact pads needed to read and write to the device. Sutija says the collaboration with PARC will lead to a 128-bit memory product that costs less than 10 cents.
Printed-electronics company Soligie is working with PARC to commercialize printed temperature sensors, or “thermistors,” devices commonly found in air conditioners, ovens, and containers used to ship drugs. They’re based on materials whose electrical resistance varies with temperature. To manufacture them usually requires baking ceramic materials at high temperatures to make a rigid wire-like structure. PARC has developed printable materials to make flexible thermistors that should be less expensive to make, says PARC’s senior director of business development, John Knight.
The thermistors PARC will commercialize with Soligie will still need to be connected to a silicon chip to read out the temperature; down the line, the researchers expect to integrate them with all-printed circuits. The company will begin sending prototypes to customers early next year.