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MEMS-based tracking tags will survive and function in extreme temps and gamma irradiation

January 24, 2011 // Toni McConnel

MEMS-based tracking tags will survive and function in extreme temps and gamma irradiation

STMicroelectronics and Bluechiip Limited have announced that they will partner to manufacture unique micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS)-based tracking tags initially aimed at healthcare markets. Because the Bluechiip tracking tag is a mechanical device rather than an electronic one, it can survive in temperature extremes and is immune gamma irradiation.


This robustness provides significant advantages over more traditional identification and tracking solutions such as labels, barcodes, and RFID technologies, and provides the high levels of data surety in the rapidly growing and labor-intensive healthcare markets, especially in biobanking.

The tags offered by ST and Bluechiip will be molded into test tubes and vials for the expanding biobank market to identify, track, retrieve, monitor and store valuable and irreplaceable human biospecimens, including tissue, embryos and cord blood in liquid nitrogen. Although the Bluechiip tracking technology will be applied first in the healthcare industry, it also has applications in pathology, clinical trials, biorepositories and forensics. Other key markets for the technology could include security, defense, industrial, manufacturing, waste, aerospace and aviation.

This new technology enables data to be read at temperatures as low as those reached in liquid nitrogen, approximately -196 degrees C, and as high as 200 degrees C. Data can be transmitted through frost. Bluechiip's tracking solution has been field-proven to survive autoclaving, gamma irradiation sterilization, humidification, centrifuging, cryogenic storage and frosting.

The new technology is based on MEMS-based resonators within a tiny and purely mechanical chip, containing no electronics whatsoever. The tracking tag, which comprises this mechanical chip and an antenna, can either be embedded or manufactured into a storage product, such as a vial or a bag. Easy identification, along with any associated information from the tag can be detected by a reader, which can also log the temperature history of the tagged items.

In March 2009, TIME Magazine highlighted biobanking as one of "10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now". The growth of biobanks worldwide has been exponential; recent studies estimate that hundreds of millions of tissue samples are stored in U.S. biobanks and greater than one billion are stored worldwide. In a recent report by Visiongain titled "Biobanking for Medical R&D: Technology and Market 2010-2025", the market for biobanking (sales of biobank resources or services) in 2009 was estimated to be worth $8B and is expected to reach $45B by 2025.

For further information: www.st.com or www.bluechiip.com.

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