A chipless radio-frequency identification (chipless-RFID) and sensing system, where tags are read by proximity (near-field) through a switch, is presented. The tags consist of a set of identical resonant elements (split-ring resonators or SRRs), printed or etched at predefined and equidistant positions, forming a linear chain, each SRR providing a bit of information. The logic state ('1' or '0') associated with each resonator depends on whether it is present or not in the predefined position. The reader is an array of power splitters used to feed a set of SRR-loaded transmission lines (in equal number to the number of resonant elements, or bits, of the tag). The feeding (interrogation) signal is a harmonic (single-tone) signal tuned to a frequency in the vicinity of the fundamental resonance of the SRRs. The set of SRR-loaded lines must be designed so that the corresponding SRRs are in perfect alignment with the SRRs of the tag, provided the tag is positioned on top of the reader. Thus, in a reading operation, as long as the tag is very close to the reader, the SRRs of the tag modify (decrease) the transmission coefficient of the corresponding reader line (through electromagnetic coupling between both SRRs), and the amplitude of the output signal is severely reduced. Therefore, the identification (ID) code of the tag is contained in the amplitudes of the output signals of the SRR-loaded lines, which can be inferred sequentially by means of a switching system. Unlike previous chipless-RFID systems based on near-field and sequential bit reading, the tags in the proposed system can be merely positioned on top of the reader, conveniently aligned, without the need to mechanically place them across the reader. Since tag reading is only possible if the tag is very close to the reader, this system can be also used as a proximity sensor with applications such as target identification. The proposed chipless-RFID and sensing approach is validated by reading a designed 4-bit tag. For identification purposes, this system is of special interest in applications where a low number of bits suffice, and tag reading by proximity is acceptable (or even convenient). Applications mostly related to secure paper, particularly involving a limited number of items (e.g., exams, ballots, etc.), in order to provide authenticity and avoid counterfeiting, are envisaged. As a proximity sensor, the system may be of use in detecting and distinguishing different targets in applications such as smart packaging.
Keywords: chipless-RFID; microwave sensors; split-ring resonators (SRRs).