We pay attention to developments in polymer electronics for a couple of reasons: they can be flexible, meaning that they can have applications beyond traditional computing devices; and they can be printable, meaning that they can be produced very inexpensively, and potentially even via next-generation fabbers. The technology is still fairly immature, but this week saw some details (and pictures) of a pretty interesting breakthrough.
PolyIC, a German start-up partially funded by Siemens AG, announced in November that it had developed prototype entirely-plastic RFID tags operating faster than any previous polymer circuit, 600 kilohertz. More details have now emerged:
The developers have created the world’s fastest (600 kilohertz) integrated circuit made of organic material. What’s more, they have succeeded in using printing techniques to produce highly stable circuits made of polymers, something no other group of researchers in the world has achieved, according to information released by PolyIC. The distance between the two conductors is less than 50 micrometers, about as thin as a human hair. These chips even function after being stored for two days at a temperature of 60 degrees Celsius and at 100 percent humidity, and will continue to work until temperatures climb above 120 degrees Celsius.
PolyIC is targeting a per-chip price of under one cent after these are commercially available next year, bringing us closer to the world WorldChanging Ally #1 Bruce Sterling discusses when he talks of "spimes" and the "internet of things." RFID is an reasonable first application of this technology, but printable polymer electronics will have a broader scope as the technology matures. The idea of printable electronics is particularly interesting, as it maps nicely to printable photovoltaics.