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Printed electronics collaboration targets temperature sensor labels

Sara Ver-Bruggen - 26 Jan 2012

A South African university spin-out has partnered with Thin Film Electronics (Thinfilm), to develop and commercialise temperature sensor labels for food packaging and other applications.

Temperature sensing labels have been used extensively with vaccines, but other potential markets include food packaging. Image: Cornell UniversityThe printed sensors will be designed to monitor the temperature of perishable foods and also pharmaceuticals. A prototype for demonstration purposes is in development.

Thinfilm's partner, PST Sensors is a spin-out from the University of Cape Town NanoSciences Innovation Centre, established to develop printed silicon electronics, focusing on physical sensors. PST has demonstrated a portfolio of prototypes including decorative, large-area temperature sensors and thermal imaging arrays.

Temperature sensors

Only a handful of companies have succeeded in commercialising temperature sensors, initially for vaccines, while making some limited inroads into food and pharmaceutical applications. Suppliers of time-temperature indicator (TTI) labels include Temptime and 3M in the US, able to provide a non-reversible record of temperature.

UK-based Timestrip supplies labels for monitoring elapsed time, as well as devices that monitor temperature breaches.

TTI solutions are mainly based on thermochromic inks. RFID-based TTI devices have also been commercialised, though these tend to be deployed at case-level, as opposed to item-level.


PST's sensors are based around a core technology of a device with electrical resistance that decreases when it is heated. The sensors can be integrated with Thinfilm's memory and with complementary organic circuits.

The market potential for TTIs and temperature sensing labels is significant, if highly accurate devices can be produced in large enough volumes - criteria that advanced printed electronics technologies and partnerships such as Thinfilm's and PST Sensors have the potential to meet.

The partnership follows Thinfilm's announcement of collaborations with Acreo and Imprint Energy on integrated addressable memory technology.

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