PragmatIC Research Secondment

Investigation of recycling methods for RFID tags 

PragmatIC Semiconductor is a world leader in ultra-low-cost flexible electronics. Its flexible integrated circuits (FlexICs) are thinner than a human hair and can be invisibly embedded in objects, enabling innovators to create novel solutions to everyday problems that are not practical with conventional electronics.

PragmatIC’s Sustainability Lead Dr Ashiq Ahamed, who took part in this SMI Hub secondment was  focussed on a wide variety of sustainability aspects within the company including identifying the environmental impacts, mitigation opportunities, and developing product use cases. His ongoing contribution includes improving the company’s sustainability profile through the conception, development and execution of strategies that are industry-specific – such as energy consumption, resource conservation, alternative materials, recycling and broader sustainable development.

Ashiq recently completed his year-long secondment with the Royce SMI Hub to undertake important research on the end-of-life recycling options for PragmatIC’s FlexIC-incorporated Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags as well as to conduct a cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment of a typical application.

PragmatIC had approached the SMI Hub to embark on a collaborative research to identify the influence of the tags, as it is keen to better understand the recyclability of RFID technology used in plastic packaging. The technologies are widely used by organisations to track assets and manage inventory by transmitting data using radio waves. In practice, it’s an effective way to send messages between electronic tags and readers.

The secondment provided Ashiq with an in-depth understanding of both mechanical and chemical recycling methods in a laboratory setting, and the relevant analytical techniques to study the material properties of the tags.

Learning, skills and development

During his secondment, Ashiq was able to develop a number of new, expert skills and greatly improve his knowledge. Skills development included operation of the SMI Hub’s mechanical extruder, the use of analytical equipment such as Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA), Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR), and the ability to perform chemical depolymerisation.

Wider opportunities included important and ongoing interaction and knowledge sharing with Royce researchers who possess a variety of expert skill sets and differing backgrounds, as well as prolonged exposure to other research activities and projects within the SMI Hub.

Ashiq said:

“The secondment really allowed me to get first-hand experience of the capability based at the SMI Hub, and I can now truly understand what’s possible in these fantastic labs. It allowed me to develop skills outside of my day-to-day role and provided me with interaction opportunities that I otherwise would not have had.

“We’re currently in the process of extending the collaboration with the SMI Hub as an Industrial Resident and this offers the opportunity for continued collaboration, and a possible joint venture within a funded research project.”

Professor Mike Shaver, Director of the SMI Hub added:

“It has been fantastic to support this secondment and see how the Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub’s perspective and interdisciplinarity has helped shape PragmatIC’s growth, as well as how Ashiq’s LCA expertise has helped shape our own!”

Dr Ashiq Ahamed holds a PhD degree from the Abo Akademi University, Finland. He worked as a Research Associate at the Nanyang Technological University before relocating to the UK for his role at PragmatIC.

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