>Merck will collaborate with the Technical University of Darmstadt on a project for the next five years to investigate novel inorganic composite materials that could be used as printable components in the development of new RFID chips.
RFID tags are tiny computer chips connected to miniature antennae that can be affixed to physical objects and are considered to be a future technology that could replace conventional barcodes on merchandise such as pharmaceuticals.
The tracking and data coding enabled by RFID can provide pharmaceutical manufacturers with a powerful tool to combat product counterfeiting and product diversion and customers will be able to ensure product integrity from the manufacturers.
According to many of its proponents, RFID promises to save billions and radically change the way the pharmaceutical supply chain works and many companies are already looking at adopting this technology.
However, currently available RFID technology is still too expensive for mass implementation across the entire supply chain, still leaving products exposed to tampering and counterfeit.
Therefore Merck aims to lower the costs of RFID in manufacturing by imprinting the RFID chips directly onto the packaging with the help of mass production processes such as conventional printing technology.
A "Merck Lab," initially to be staffed by about 10 people, will be set up for this purpose in the Chemicals Department of the Technical University of Darmstadt at the Lichtwiese Campus in Darmstadt.
The €1 m per year operating costs will be shared equally by the two partners although the Technical University of Darmstadt will be contributing its share mainly in the form of personnel and material.
University scientists from many disciplines, including materials science, macromolecular and inorganic chemistry, printing machinery and processes, as well as microelectronic-systems experts, are participating in the joint project.
"The alliance with the Technical University of Darmstadt in high-tech applications of RFID chips is another example of how the Chemicals business of Merck is developing new products for future market requirements through alliances with competent partners," explained Dr. Michael Roemer, chairman of the executive board of Merck.