#TechTuesday Graphene for near-field communication (NFC)
Graphene Flagship partners use graphene to develop fully flexible NFC devices for home automation applications, including electronic keys.
You’ve probably heard of NFC before, but what exactly is it? Near-field communication (NFC) is a technology that has been around for decades. If you’ve ever used a key card to access a hotel room, you’re already familiar with how it functions. NFC operates on the principles of short-range inductive coupling. The reader device generates a magnetic field by passing an electric current through a coil, and when a tag (with its own coil) is brought nearby, the field induces a wireless electric current. Then, once the initial handshake is complete, any data stored on the tag is transmitted to the reader.
Current NFC devices rely heavily on metallic antennas, which are neither flexible, sustainable, or environmentally friendly. Now, due to graphene’s unique combination of mechanical, electrical and elastic properties, NFC antennas can be integrated into flexible and even wearable materials.
Graphene Flagship researchers from the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) are using graphene-based NFC antennas to provide reliable, affordable, and environmentally friendly alternatives to metallic antennas, which can enhance existing NFC devices and produce future applications such as domotics and wearable NFC tags.
As demonstrated at Mobile World Congress 2019, in Barcelona, CNR researchers have developed a fully flexible NFC device, capable of housing multiple functions in the form of a wearable bracelet. This means you could store electronic keys, credit cards, and health sensors in a single device.
The key characteristic of NFC is that it only transmits wireless data within a very close range of up to 4 cm. In most applications, NFC software will only trigger communication if physical contact is made, reducing the risk of accidental triggers or data hijacking. This proximity-based parameter makes near-field communication a safe and convenient option for sensitive data transfer.
All NFC antennas possess bidirectional capability, which allows you to use one piece of hardware, such as a smartphone or tablet, for a range of applications. Graphene-based NFC devices can even be used to produce batteries in textile. When connected to a smartphone through the NFC reader app, the device was able to provide a stable power source to an LED board.
The next step in this process is to develop graphene-based NFC antennas into large scale production for commercial markets. With exciting future applications ranging from contactless payment systems to social networking, and wearables, it is clear this technology has the power to open many doors!