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Botao Shao #∗1 , Qiang Chen #2 , Yasar Amin #3 , Julius Hllstedt #4 , Ran Liu ∗5 , Hannu Tenhunen #6 , Li-Rong Zheng #7

iPack Vinn Excellence Center, School of Information and Communication Technology, KTH (Royal Institute of Technology), Forum 120, 164 40 Stockholm-Kista, Sweden.


Department of Microelectronics, Fudan University 200433, Shanghai, China

Abstract— This paper focuses on the process dependence of an inkjet printed folded dipole antenna based on practical parameters in a typical inkjet printing process. We present the effect of width variations and number of overprinting times on the antenna properties such as gain, radiation efficiency and input impedance. Furthermore we investigate the read range degradation of the tag on which the antenna is attached, due to width or thickness variations. In addition, an comparison between an inkjet printed antenna on a regular paper substrate and a copper antenna on Printed Circuit Board (PCB) was made, manifesting the strong competitiveness of the printed silver antenna as a low cost solution.

I. I NTRODUCTION With the vast demands for inexpensive, flexible, high-quality RFID tags, printable antenna has attracted a lot of attention in RFID community. Compared with a common PCB process employing subtractive process and mask plates, the inkjet printed process has advantages such as [1][2]: • Implementing additive process where the valuable material are deposited only on a desired location • No requirement for the mask manufacturing and the easiness of switching to the patterns to be realized Inkjet printing, moreover, has a potential to be combined with reel-to-reel process for greatly reduced cost of massproduction. Some papers have been published dealing with printed antennas for RFID tags, e.g. [3][4]. These studies focus on the printed antenna performance itself instead of the processdependence thereof. However, it is essential to understand the effect of width and thickness variations on antenna properties because there exist huge discrepancies between an inkjet printing process and other processes such as PCB and siliconbased process. For instance, the thickness of an inkjet printed silver film roughly varies within the range of 0.3 μm to 4 μm [5][6], compared to 18 or 35 μm for a copper antenna in a conventional PCB process.

In practice, the orientation of tags on which antennas are attached is uncontrollable, thus a trade-off must be made between the use of circularly polarized read antennas, sacrificing read range, and the use of polarization-diverse tag antennas, adding cost and size to the antenna structure. However, for the tag antennas aiming to ultra low cost, an omni-directional radiation pattern is preferred, promoting the choice of the dipole antenna and its derivatives, such as the folded dipole antenna, the meander-line antenna etc. Folded dipole antennas are commonly employed on RFID tags when greater bandwidth and higher impedance matching are required. Additionally, 2.4 GHz tags are in general smaller than 900 M Hz tags making them more convenient to use at lower cost. As a result, the combination of these two concerns allows the incentive to study the process-dependence of an folded dipole antenna operating at 2.45 GHz . II. A NTENNA C HARACTERISTICS Fig. 1 shows the schematic of the analyzed folded dipole antenna operating at 2.45 GHz with geometries described in Tab. I. The selection of these parameters in this table was based on practical experiments either from our own experience or from others published contributions. The conductivity of nano-silver film printed on paper substrate was supposed to be 21 × 106 S/m [1][7][8]. The thickness of conducting film on a paper was assumed 0.9 μm from our trial printing, and paper properties were obtained from [9]. It is assumed that, in addition, the counterpart copper antenna was realized by using a standard FR-4 Copper Clad Laminate with 18μm copper thickness. On the basis of these assumptions, the structure of these two classes antennas, one is the nano-silver based antenna and the other is a typical copper antenna on PCB as a reference, were constructed and analyzed in Ansoft HFSS 3-D simulation tool. For the convenience of consequent comparisons, all the characteristics responses versus process variations have been normalized to a nano-silver based stan-


radiation efficiency.TABLE I G EOMETRIES OF THE S IMULATED F OLDED D IPOLE A NTENNA A ND S UBSTRATE Parameters l w s t σ H tanδ Value 54. Read Range. 2. with a nominal width and a single layer thickness. heating platform temperature etc. With simple algebraic manipulation. In Fig. Folded dipole antenna operating at 2. is different from antenna efficiency. l w Y X where R is the read range of the antenna with process variant. substrate material and rheology. Overprinting Effect Owing to the restriction of thin thickness of a conducting film. 1. It can be concluded that width increase might improve gain but takes no effect to the enhancement of radiation gain. we can start from well-known Friis formula Eq.96 mm 1 mm 1 mm 0.2 mm 3. as one of the most important characteristics. U (θ. a printed antenna might not be comparable with copper counterparts on PCB. and read range. while the radiation efficiency approximately maintain its original value across the whole width variations. especially in the maximum gain direction where in practice tags are frequently placed. G is the gain with process varied. the expression of the read range normalized to the standard antenna is shown in Eq. Pt · Gt is the Effective Radiated Power (ERP) transmitted by the reader. and adding to this problem is that its feature size depends on various factors such as spacing between two ink drops. gain does not include losses arising from impedance mismatch and polarization mismatches. which is exclusively concerned with the performance for the interior of a antenna. Absolute gain of an antenna is defined as the ratio of the intensity. printing nozzle size. The radiation efficiency e is the ratio of the radiated power to the accepted power (excluding the reflected power). ϕ) Pacc (1) Peak gain. that is. input impedance and read range of the antenna. defines the maximum distance at which RFID reader can detect 2337 . in turn. port impedance. 2 respectively. s Fig. Pacc is the accepted power. Width Variation Effect The process standardization of inkjet printing for electronics has not matured so far. It is noticeable that according to the IEEE Standard Definitions of Terms for Antenna [10]. R is the read range of the standard antenna claimed above. Pacc and the radiation intensity. In this paper these four feature properties were detailedly discussed.45 GHz The considerations of some antenna characteristics are frequently made such as gain. It is noteworthy that radiation efficiency. in a given direction. width and thickness variations of a conducting film. the antenna radiation patterns at the horizontal plan (θ = 90o ) present little alterations with width variation increasing from −20% to 0 then to +20%. 3. Moreover.73 dB to 1. the width variations of a antenna are described as percentage ranging from −20% to +20%. 4: R = R G G (4) dard antenna without variations on width and thickness. resulting in the deviations of nominal features such as gain. where with the increase of the wire width the gain rises from 1.77 dB . 1 and Eq. to the radiation intensity that would be obtained if the power accepted by the antenna were radiated isotropically.9 μm 21 × 106 S/m 0. The cross-sectional area of the film is changed in response to these variations. and connected with the accepted power. as the width rises the gain of the silver antenna seemingly approaches the gain of the copper antenna. A.3: Pr = (Pt · Gt ) · Gr · λ2 (4πR)2 (3) where R is the distance between an RFID tag and reader. B. In order to enhance the competitiveness. is the maximum gain over all the userspecified directions of the far-field infinite sphere. which is defined as the ratio of the radiated power to the incident power (including the reflected power) and consequently used to take into account losses both at the input terminals and within the structure of the antenna. so that it can be concluded that the width variations almost have no impact on the directional depedance of radiaton. To obtain the read range expression. radiation efficiency.077 Specification Length of the antenna Width of the antenna Space between two parallel arms Thickness of the metal film Conductivity of the metal Height of the paper substrate Dielectric Constant of the substrate Loss Tangent of the substrate the backscattered signal from the tag. ϕ): Gain = 4π U (θ. given by the analytical formula: e= Prad Pacc (2) where Prad is the radiated power. For simplification and convenience of the investigation. By using Eq. and G the gain of the standard antenna. P ROCESS D EPENDENCE A NALYSIS There exist two main considerations involved in the inkjet printing process of an antenna.2 0. Gt is the gain of tag antenna. III. the gain and the radiation efficiency of the antenna were derived as shown in Fig.

the read range is primarily determined from the antenna gain.5 Ohm respectively. Although the maxium value in this plot is 226 Ohm when width reducing to −20% and overprinting 4 times. the values at 3 and 5 times printing with the identical width are 225 Ohm and 221 Ohm. 2.7 1. 3 radiation plots superpose vs. width variations with percent increment from −20% to 0 then +20% 2 2.8 1. C. D. 6. furthermore.8 1. the effect of overprinting on gain and radiation efficiency was examined. which is proven by Eq.5 0.0 -30 -2.6 Fig. Seen in Fig.3 μm compared to 2. As a result. leading to the reconsider- ation of antenna port matching.8 -120 120 -150 -180 150 1.2 2 Fig.9 60 -60 1. Based on these reasonable assumptions.99 to 1. varied width percent from −20% to +20%. As with this plot.5 1. Given in Fig. 4. and then goes flat when the times above 3.3 Ohm and 1. for nano-silver ink based film. reactance. At 2.00 30 2 2. 7.7 1. Radiation Efficiency Gain(dB) 2338 Radiation Efficiency copper 2 .4 1. the input impedance was correspondingly altered consisting of the real part. occuring for 2 times printing and 20% width increment. Read Range Degradation For a tag antenna which is perfectly matched with full-wave rectification. respectively. under the environment with width upto 20% and twice-printing. the multilayer thickness is roughly proportional to the overprinting times [2]. Gain and radiation efficiency as the function of number of overprinted times 1.45 GHz .4 -20 -15 -10 -5 0 5 10 15 20 Varied Width (%) 0.9 copper 1. the skin depth for copper antennas is around 1. with the gain alteration the read range of the antenna would be modified.4 2. Gain and radiation efficiency vs. resistance and the imaginary part.2 1 1. leading to an inescapable trade-off between inferior performances with single layer and superior performances with multilayer. where the skin depth is 2. providing the conclusion that these values are in good agreement with commensense.22μm as stated previously. a series of valley values are merely distributed along the line where twice-printing employed. the magnitude of read range of the antenna appears not to change.45 GHz when the constraints are laid down of the wire width varied within ±20% and the number of overprinting times from 1 to 5. This happens as a result of the heavy influence of skin effect.8 1.00 -90 90 1.2 1.01 with the film width increasing from −20% to +20% while for the overprinting.4 1 2 3 Number of Layers 4 5 0. 166 Ohm. less than the three layer’s thickness.4 1. where the read range rises from 0.2 1 1. This phenomena stems from the skin effect where most of the electromagnetic wave are constrained within some extent known as the skin depth.00 -16. which is in accordance with the general knowledge that when the thickness of a wire rises.6 Fig. Although the average thickness of overprinted film is dependent on the previous surface topology and substrate temperature factors and so on. we can observe that the tendancy goes high when the overprinting times increasing up to 3.8 0. 4.00 -9. as well as the maxium and the minimum value are 2. where the tendancy similar as the real part is observed. 3. The imaginary part of the input impedance for the changed width and thickness are plotted in Fig.6 Gain(dB) -23. Secondly.45 GHz using overprinting method plays a minor role in improving the read range of the antenna. overprinting technique is commonly employed to increase the thickness of a film. The behavior of the antenna gain and the radiation efficiency versus the overprinted times gives that the efficiency retains constant while the gain increases slightly although the cross-sectional area of the antenna rise up by as much as 5 times. achived is the minimum magnitude of real part of the impedance.8 1.6 1. 5. this wire resistance decreases until the skin effect becomes dominant in determining the magnitue of impedance. 2D radiation pattern at θ = 90 degree. Input Impedance Response Since the geometry of the antenna was changed because of width and thickness variations. 5 is the plot of real part of antenna input impedance at 2. It can be concluded that at 2. The corresponding degradations of read range are presented in Fig.6 1.2 μm. shown in Fig. 4.6 1.

Derby. and we are grateful as well to China Scholarship Council(CSC) for its co-funding. Symp. Sydanheimo. Yang. Ukkonen. An Ink-Jet-Deposited Passive Component Process for RFID.2 −0. Vyas. Journal of Materials Science. 2004.R. Molesa. Jun 1983. Shin. 2005. volume 2. furthermore. 2005.9 -20 -10 0 Varied Width (%) 10 20 0.Y. L. Input reactance for process variations at 2.85 0. N. Yin. Proc.J. and K.45 GHz .R. Edirisinghe.S.J. informing that at 2. pages –. International Journal of Antennas and Propagation.J. Molesa. P. and M. although using overprinting technique to increase the thickness leads to a limited improvement on the gain and the radiation efficiency of the antenna owing to the skin effect at 2. Oh.1 3 2 Overprinting times 5 4 1 0. Analysis of Silver Ink Bow-Tie RFID Tag Antennas Printed on Paper Substrates. Low cost silver ink RFID tag antennas. Reis. IEEE Std 145-1983.45 GHz Moreover. 2002. It can also be concluded that the antenna from nano-silver ink has a performance 2339 Read Range Degradation .M. J. its radiation pattern and radiation efficiency approximately remain unchanged. 13(4):213–219. Nur. 51:12. of read range by overprinting process seems not effective as thought. Smith. Rao. Res. 2006. D. D. S. In Antennas and Propagation Society International Symposium.H. C ONCLUSIONS Firstly. and N. Redinger. the influence on the input impedance of the antenna imposed by overprinting are fairly considerable. as much as 50 Ohm. R EFERENCES [1] H.1 0 0. leading to the slight enhancement of the read range of the tag on which the antenna are attached.05 copper Re(Impedance) (Ohm) Read Range Degradation 210 200 190 180 170 160 −0.95 0. RFID Tag and RF Structures on a Paper Substrate Using Inkjet-Printing Technology. S. Joung. and M.C.1 0 0. Journal of Electronic Materials. [9] L. Nikitin. Im(impedance) (Ohm) 2 1. Redinger. Song. [4] S. and V. [2] S. Lam. Tentzeris.45 GHz Fig. Rida.45 GHz the solution of performance improvement of an antenna by increasing the thickness of the conducting film requires to be treated cautiously since the expenditure on this point may not be cost efficient.Y. 36(9):1211–1218.1 230 220 2 3 4 5 1. Kivikoski. Ruuskanen. 26(4):315–318. P. 2007.5 comparable with the antenna from copper on PCB but at lower cost and with flexible property. [7] P. O’Brien.E. Smith. set to 1.C. Input resistance for process variations at 2. B. Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Electronics. leading to that inkjet printed antennas with a lower cost have the competent capability with the copper counterparts. with the width variation of the silver based antenna increasing from −20% to +20%. and Y. 5. the regular copper antenna has a weakly superior read range of 1. R. Studies on InkjetPrinted Conducting Lines for Electronic Devices. A. Derby. IV. Subramanian.S. and M. 2. Direct ink-jet printing and low temperature conversion of conductive silver patterns.V. Shin. S. J. D. 2007.M. Cho. [3] P.Number of Layers 1 1.2 1 Width variation(from −20% to 20% ) 2 Overprinting times 4 3 5 Fig.L. ACKNOWLEDGMENT This work was financially supported by Vinnova (The Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems) through the Vinn Excellence centers program.5 −0. 6. Reis. A Low Curing Temperature Silver Ink for Use in Ink-Jet Printing and Subsequent Production of Conductive Tracks. J. IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON ELECTRON DEVICES. 55(12 Part 2):2894–2901. 2007. [8] A.H. Mat.2 1 Width variation(from −20% to 20%) Fig.V. [6] H. Evans.02. D. and the gain rises slightly. Process dependence of read range vs.2 −0. Secondly. 41(13):4153–4158. [10] Ieee standard definitions of terms for antennas. S. Macromolecular Rapid Communications. and P.G. 7. Dearden. Merilampi.1 0. 8:3–1. B. The enhancement. and V. Huang. of the standard antenna. Stringer. Highquality inkjet-printed multilevel interconnects and inductive components on plastic for ultra-low-cost RFID applications. 2005 IEEE. width and thickness variations. H. Farschi. J. Microwave Theory and Techniques. IEEE Transactions on. L.W. [5] D. Ink-jet printing of gold conductive tracks. 769. Jung. Soc. R. Subramanian. in comparison with the read range.