RESEARCH

RFID Tag-High-Energy BioCoal: Nanotechnology Innovation for the Future 

Smart RFID tags indicate time and temperature and can record memory, allowing retrospective tracking of product history during transportation. This enhances the capabilities of RFID tags, driving research efforts to incorporate nanotechnology for market applicability in retail businesses, warehouses, or events seamlessly. They were developed from research by “Cleantech & Beyond,” one of the startups of WiseUp Limited. Additionally, researchers from the National Nanotechnology Center (Nanotec) have utilized agricultural waste materials to develop BioCoal as a substitute for traditional charcoal, addressing the issue of PM 2.5 dust pollution and contributing to sustainable solutions in line with the BCG model. Both innovations are showcased at NanoThailand 2023, organized by the National Nanotechnology Center (Nanotec) in collaboration with the Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) and the Thailand Nanotechnology Association. The event is held under the theme “Nanotechnology for a Sustainable World.”

RFID Tag

Asst. Prof. Pitch Pattanasattayawong, the founder of CleanTech & Beyond Limited, a start-up under the care of WiseUp Limited, established by the Sirindhorn Institute of Technology, stated that the Digital Temperature Indicator (DTI) had been developed as a smart label that could be used to identify products, equipment, or items to which the label is applied. 

The product can indicate when the temperature exceeds the critical value, operating continuously without the need for batteries. It can be used with both RFID and NFC wireless communication systems, facilitating the tracking of individual item temperatures for various products or items. 

When coming into contact with a temperature higher than the specified threshold, the DTI will indicate the temperature status through both color change and digital status without returning to normal even if the temperature comes back to its normal range. 

“Due to the transportation of certain types of goods, excessive heat or temperature is a critical concern. For example, the transport of blood bags, biological materials, medicines, vaccines, or high-value products, such as perfumes, cosmetics, and high-value food items like durian, is essential to monitor and ensure that the temperature does not exceed specified limits. Additionally, it can be used to check electronic devices, electrical equipment, and motors in the industrial sector, ensuring constant monitoring for abnormal high temperatures.” 

The highlight of the designed label by the research team is its ability to record memory for reviewing the travel history of the product. Asst. Prof. Pitch stated that CleanTech & Beyond was the world’s first to enhance this functionality without the need for memory cards. The label can record memory internally and link to display results in the system. 

BioCoal 

Mr. Sanchai Khubun, a member of the research team on catalysis at the Nano and Computational Level Research Unit of the National Nanotechnology Center, stated that biomass power plants often face challenges when using biomass directly as a fuel to generate electricity. Therefore, the research team has developed a biofuel that can be used as a substitute for coal, whose usage is expected to be restricted shortly. “BioCoal” will finally come to meet the needs and alleviate the limitations of current biomass users. 

BioCoal is a solid biofuel with properties closely resembling those of coal, produced through a process known as torrefaction. Torrefaction is a method that enhances the quality and transforms the shape of biomass through a chemical heat treatment, subjecting the biomass to heat in an oxygen-limited (or air-restricted) environment at temperatures between 200-300 degrees Celsius. 

The research team has utilized agricultural residues, such as sugarcane leaves, corn husks, cassava stems, palm fronds, fast-growing tree species of the Clitoria genus, and eucalyptus bark, seeking suitable conditions, including the development of technology for biochar production systems that can progress to real-world industrial applications. 

“BioCoal has interesting market potential because it can be used as a clean fuel to generate electricity or heat, for example, in biomass power plants, coal-fired power plants, or other industries that use heat in the production process. There is a high market demand for this in Thailand, as well.” 

“At the same time, farmers are encouraged to utilize biomass to maximize benefits, reducing the open burning of biomass, a significant cause of PM2.5 particulate matter. Additionally, using bioCoal as a substitute for coal can contribute to mitigating global warming and air pollution issues,” concluded Sanchai. 

Both of these innovations illustrate the significant development strides of Thailand. It involves the application of nanotechnology knowledge through collaboration between the public and private sectors, either locally or internationally. This collaboration extends to research cooperation within and outside the country, contributing to future collaborative efforts. This aims to propel the global advancement of nanotechnology and, more importantly, fulfill the core mission of the Center itself.