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Billions of packages are identified by their barcodes every year. Each individual package has to be turned, scanned and stacked, all of which takes time. Identification with a chipless label made of nanocrystalline silicon is much faster because it is wireless. The technology has been developed by the Universities of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) and Twente (UT), together with four companies, as part of the DruIDe project of the Germany-Netherlands INTERREG program : the silicon is applied in the form of nano particles in a special ink and is printed directly onto the package with an ink jet printer. It can be processed into an electronic circuit by laser. “We are the first to be able to print nano electronics made of silicon,” explains Prof. Niels Benson from the UDE.

The new technology makes logistics easier and also saves on resources because the RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) label and therefore the package can be reused. As the label also works without a chip, it only costs about one cent – a fifth of the conventional equivalent. In Germany, the start-up “airCode” is set to bring the technology onto the market, and a new company is being founded to do the same in the Netherlands.