Interview: Kovio tips details of printed silicon RF-IDs

by Ed Korczynski, Senior Technical Editor, Solid State Technology

The possible use of “active” radio-frequency identity (RF-ID) tags to secretly track people has stirred up controversy. Simpler “passive” RF-IDs, on the other hand, seem inherently much more difficult to secretly track, since they generally require a sensor to be in very close proximity (plus disposable items just aren’t great at tracking people). Thus, we should unreservedly applaud printed silicon ICs for passive RF-IDs from privately held Kovio Inc.

Founded by a team of scientists in the MIT Media Laboratory, Kovio has emerged from R&D stealth mode with a printable silicon IC technology that initially targets applications for extremely high-volume manufacturing of passive RF-IDs. The only manufacturing details released so far are that minimum linewidths will be around one mil using liquid-phase inorganic “inks” for all film precursors needed to form CMOS silicon thin-film transistors (TFT), and the fact that the substrates will be flexible foils. This combines the low cost of graphics printing with the power of silicon-based semiconductors that can function at frequencies of MHz and above.

In an exclusive interview with WaferNEWS, Vikram Pavate, Kovio VP of business development, talks about his company’s work with printed silicon ICs for radio-frequency identity (RF-ID) chips, which combines functional electronic inks with high-resolution graphics printing technologies to make high-performance silicon CMOS TFTs on flexible substrates at a fraction of the cost of conventional lithography-based silicon technology.

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