The Japanese giant Hitachi has developed the world's smallest and thinnest Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip.
Measuring only 0.15 x 0.15 millimeters in size and 7.5 micrometers thick, the wireless chip is a smaller version of the previous record holder - Hitachi's 0.4 x 0.4 mm "Micro-Chip".
The company used semiconductor miniaturization and electron beam technology to write data on the chip substrates to achieve this decrease in size. The new chips have a wide range of potential applications from military to transportation, logistics and even consumer electronics.
Nicknamed "Powder" or "Dust", these chips consist of 128-bit ROM (Read Only Memory) that can store a 38-digit number. Hitachi says the distance between each circuit element was reduced using the Silicon-on-Insulator (SOI) process, where an insulation layer and a monocrystalline silicon layer are formed upon the silicon base substrate, and the transistor is then formed on this SOI substrate. When compared to the conventional process where a transistor is formed directly upon the silicon substrate, this technology significantly reduces parasitic capacitance and current leakage, improving the transistor's performance. The SOI process also prevents the interference between neighboring devices, which often causes product malfunctions. Thanks to an insulator surrounding each device, Hitachi experts say that even when the devices are in close proximity, higher integration is achieved on an even smaller area.
RFID chips are also a source for increasing controversy surrounding issues of privacy. An RFID chip can be used to track the location of unsuspecting individuals who have bought products that include RFID tags in their package. Having miniature cheap RFID chips, such as those developed by Hitachi, implanted inside anything we buy might make many people feel very uncomfortable. However, big businesses believe that consumers' fears are dwarfed by the benefits of RFID chips, which include reduced theft, digital real time inventory, and better information on consumer shopping habits.
Hitachi is constantly developing new and advanced chips. After publishing the information regarding the 0.15 x 0.15 millimeter RFID chip back in 2006, the company apparently completed working on the improved RFID chip in early 2007. According to the Nikkei website, Hitachi is now planning on developing an even smaller RFID chip using 65-nanometer lithographic technology.