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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 efciency 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, exible, 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 lm roughly varies within the range of 0.3 m to 4 m [5][6], compared to 18 or 35 m 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, sacricing 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 lm printed on paper substrate was supposed to be 21 106 S/m [1][7][8]. The thickness of conducting lm on a paper was assumed 0.9 m 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 18m 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-


TABLE I G EOMETRIES OF THE S IMULATED F OLDED D IPOLE A NTENNA A ND S UBSTRATE Parameters l w s t H tan Value 54.96 mm 1 mm 1 mm 0.9 m 21 106 S/m 0.2 mm 3.2 0.077 Specication Length of the antenna Width of the antenna Space between two parallel arms Thickness of the metal lm 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. To obtain the read range expression, we can start from well-known Friis formula Eq.3: Pr = (Pt Gt ) Gr 2 (4R)2 (3)

where R is the distance between an RFID tag and reader, Pt Gt is the Effective Radiated Power (ERP) transmitted by the reader. Gt is the gain of tag antenna. With simple algebraic manipulation, the expression of the read range normalized to the standard antenna is shown in Eq. 4: R = R G G (4)

dard antenna without variations on width and thickness, that is, with a nominal width and a single layer thickness.
l w

where R is the read range of the antenna with process variant, R is the read range of the standard antenna claimed above, G is the gain with process varied, and G the gain of the standard antenna. III. P ROCESS D EPENDENCE A NALYSIS There exist two main considerations involved in the inkjet printing process of an antenna, width and thickness variations of a conducting lm. The cross-sectional area of the lm is changed in response to these variations, resulting in the deviations of nominal features such as gain, radiation efciency, input impedance and read range of the antenna. A. Width Variation Effect The process standardization of inkjet printing for electronics has not matured so far, and adding to this problem is that its feature size depends on various factors such as spacing between two ink drops, printing nozzle size, substrate material and rheology, heating platform temperature etc. For simplication and convenience of the investigation, the width variations of a antenna are described as percentage ranging from 20% to +20%. In Fig. 2, the antenna radiation patterns at the horizontal plan ( = 90o ) present little alterations with width variation increasing from 20% to 0 then to +20%, especially in the maximum gain direction where in practice tags are frequently placed, so that it can be concluded that the width variations almost have no impact on the directional depedance of radiaton. By using Eq. 1 and Eq. 2 respectively, the gain and the radiation efciency of the antenna were derived as shown in Fig. 3, where with the increase of the wire width the gain rises from 1.73 dB to 1.77 dB , while the radiation efciency approximately maintain its original value across the whole width variations. It can be concluded that width increase might improve gain but takes no effect to the enhancement of radiation gain. Moreover, as the width rises the gain of the silver antenna seemingly approaches the gain of the copper antenna. B. Overprinting Effect Owing to the restriction of thin thickness of a conducting lm, a printed antenna might not be comparable with copper counterparts on PCB. In order to enhance the competitiveness,

Fig. 1.

Folded dipole antenna operating at 2.45 GHz

The considerations of some antenna characteristics are frequently made such as gain, radiation efciency, port impedance, and read range. In this paper these four feature properties were detailedly discussed. Absolute gain of an antenna is dened as the ratio of the intensity, in a given direction, to the radiation intensity that would be obtained if the power accepted by the antenna were radiated isotropically, and connected with the accepted power, Pacc and the radiation intensity, U (, ): Gain = 4 U (, ) Pacc (1)

Peak gain, in turn, is the maximum gain over all the userspecied directions of the far-eld innite sphere. It is noticeable that according to the IEEE Standard Denitions of Terms for Antenna [10], gain does not include losses arising from impedance mismatch and polarization mismatches. The radiation efciency e is the ratio of the radiated power to the accepted power (excluding the reected power), given by the analytical formula: e= Prad Pacc (2)

where Prad is the radiated power, Pacc is the accepted power. It is noteworthy that radiation efciency, which is exclusively concerned with the performance for the interior of a antenna, is different from antenna efciency, which is dened as the ratio of the radiated power to the incident power (including the reected power) and consequently used to take into account losses both at the input terminals and within the structure of the antenna. Read Range, as one of the most important characteristics, denes the maximum distance at which RFID reader can detect


0 -30 -2.00 -9.00 -16.00 30

2.4 2.2




1.8 1.6


-23.00 -90 90

1.7 1.4 1.6 1.2 1 1.5 0.8



-150 -180


1.4 1 2 3 Number of Layers 4 5


Fig. 2. 2D radiation pattern at = 90 degree, 3 radiation plots superpose vs. width variations with percent increment from 20% to 0 then +20%
2 2.2 2

Fig. 4. Gain and radiation efciency as the function of number of overprinted times



1.8 1.6 1.4 1.2 1

1.7 1.6

1.5 1.4 -20 -15 -10 -5 0 5 10 15 20 Varied Width (%)

0.8 0.6

Fig. 3. Gain and radiation efciency vs. varied width percent from 20% to +20%.

overprinting technique is commonly employed to increase the thickness of a lm, leading to an inescapable trade-off between inferior performances with single layer and superior performances with multilayer. Although the average thickness of overprinted lm is dependent on the previous surface topology and substrate temperature factors and so on, the multilayer thickness is roughly proportional to the overprinting times [2]. Based on these reasonable assumptions, the effect of overprinting on gain and radiation efciency was examined, shown in Fig. 4. The behavior of the antenna gain and the radiation efciency versus the overprinted times gives that the efciency retains constant while the gain increases slightly although the cross-sectional area of the antenna rise up by as much as 5 times. This phenomena stems from the skin effect where most of the electromagnetic wave are constrained within some extent known as the skin depth. At 2.45 GHz , the skin depth for copper antennas is around 1.3 m compared to 2.2 m, less than the three layers thickness, for nano-silver ink based lm. C. Input Impedance Response Since the geometry of the antenna was changed because of width and thickness variations, the input impedance was correspondingly altered consisting of the real part, resistance and the imaginary part, reactance, leading to the reconsider-

ation of antenna port matching. Given in Fig. 5 is the plot of real part of antenna input impedance at 2.45 GHz when the constraints are laid down of the wire width varied within 20% and the number of overprinting times from 1 to 5. As with this plot, we can observe that the tendancy goes high when the overprinting times increasing up to 3, and then goes at when the times above 3. This happens as a result of the heavy inuence of skin effect, where the skin depth is 2.22m as stated previously. 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, respectively, providing the conclusion that these values are in good agreement with commensense. Secondly, under the environment with width upto 20% and twice-printing, achived is the minimum magnitude of real part of the impedance, 166 Ohm, occuring for 2 times printing and 20% width increment. Seen in Fig. 5, furthermore, a series of valley values are merely distributed along the line where twice-printing employed, which is in accordance with the general knowledge that when the thickness of a wire rises, this wire resistance decreases until the skin effect becomes dominant in determining the magnitue of impedance. The imaginary part of the input impedance for the changed width and thickness are plotted in Fig. 6, where the tendancy similar as the real part is observed, as well as the maxium and the minimum value are 2.3 Ohm and 1.5 Ohm respectively. D. Read Range Degradation For a tag antenna which is perfectly matched with full-wave rectication, the read range is primarily determined from the antenna gain. As a result, with the gain alteration the read range of the antenna would be modied, which is proven by Eq. 4. The corresponding degradations of read range are presented in Fig. 7, where the read range rises from 0.99 to 1.01 with the lm width increasing from 20% to +20% while for the overprinting, the magnitude of read range of the antenna appears not to change. It can be concluded that at 2.45 GHz using overprinting method plays a minor role in improving the read range of the antenna.

Radiation Efficiency



Radiation Efficiency


Number of Layers 1 1.1

230 220

5 1.05


Re(Impedance) (Ohm)

Read Range Degradation

210 200 190 180 170 160 0.2 0.1 0 0.1 3 2 Overprinting times 5 4


0.9 -20 -10 0 Varied Width (%) 10 20


0.2 1 Width variation(from 20% to 20%)

Fig. 5.

Input resistance for process variations at 2.45 GHz

Fig. 7. Process dependence of read range vs. width and thickness variations.


comparable with the antenna from copper on PCB but at lower cost and with exible property. ACKNOWLEDGMENT This work was nancially supported by Vinnova (The Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems) through the Vinn Excellence centers program, and we are grateful as well to China Scholarship Council(CSC) for its co-funding. R EFERENCES
[1] H.C. Jung, S.H. Cho, J.W. Joung, and Y.S. Oh. Studies on InkjetPrinted Conducting Lines for Electronic Devices. Journal of Electronic Materials, 36(9):12111218, 2007. [2] S. Molesa, D.R. Redinger, D.C. Huang, and V. Subramanian. Highquality inkjet-printed multilevel interconnects and inductive components on plastic for ultra-low-cost RFID applications. Mat. Res. Soc. Symp. Proc. 769, H, 8:31. [3] P.V. Nikitin, S. Lam, and K.V.S. Rao. Low cost silver ink RFID tag antennas. In Antennas and Propagation Society International Symposium, 2005 IEEE, volume 2, 2005. [4] S. Merilampi, L. Ukkonen, L. Sydanheimo, P. Ruuskanen, and M. Kivikoski. Analysis of Silver Ink Bow-Tie RFID Tag Antennas Printed on Paper Substrates. International Journal of Antennas and Propagation, 2007. [5] D. Redinger, S. Molesa, S. Yin, R. Farschi, and V. Subramanian. An Ink-Jet-Deposited Passive Component Process for RFID. IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON ELECTRON DEVICES, 51:12, 2004. [6] H.M. Nur, J.H. Song, J.R.G. Evans, and M.J. Edirisinghe. Ink-jet printing of gold conductive tracks. Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Electronics, 13(4):213219, 2002. [7] P.J. Smith, D.Y. Shin, J.E. Stringer, B. Derby, and N. Reis. Direct ink-jet printing and low temperature conversion of conductive silver patterns. Journal of Materials Science, 41(13):41534158, 2006. [8] A.L. Dearden, P.J. Smith, D.Y. Shin, N. Reis, B. Derby, and P. OBrien. A Low Curing Temperature Silver Ink for Use in Ink-Jet Printing and Subsequent Production of Conductive Tracks. Macromolecular Rapid Communications, 26(4):315318, 2005. [9] L. Yang, A. Rida, R. Vyas, and M.M. Tentzeris. RFID Tag and RF Structures on a Paper Substrate Using Inkjet-Printing Technology. Microwave Theory and Techniques, IEEE Transactions on, 55(12 Part 2):28942901, 2007. [10] Ieee standard denitions of terms for antennas. IEEE Std 145-1983, pages , Jun 1983.

Im(impedance) (Ohm)

1.5 0.2 0.1 0 0.1 0.2 1 Width variation(from 20% to 20% ) 2 Overprinting times 4 3 5

Fig. 6.

Input reactance for process variations at 2.45 GHz

Moreover, in comparison with the read range, set to 1, of the standard antenna, the regular copper antenna has a weakly superior read range of 1.02, leading to that inkjet printed antennas with a lower cost have the competent capability with the copper counterparts. IV. C ONCLUSIONS Firstly, with the width variation of the silver based antenna increasing from 20% to +20%, its radiation pattern and radiation efciency approximately remain unchanged, and the gain rises slightly, leading to the slight enhancement of the read range of the tag on which the antenna are attached. Secondly, although using overprinting technique to increase the thickness leads to a limited improvement on the gain and the radiation efciency of the antenna owing to the skin effect at 2.45 GHz , the inuence on the input impedance of the antenna imposed by overprinting are fairly considerable, as much as 50 Ohm. The enhancement, furthermore, of read range by overprinting process seems not effective as thought, informing that at 2.45 GHz the solution of performance improvement of an antenna by increasing the thickness of the conducting lm requires to be treated cautiously since the expenditure on this point may not be cost efcient. It can also be concluded that the antenna from nano-silver ink has a performance


Read Range Degradation