RFID INK-- does it exist?

I have a question for you regarding RFID ink-- is this something that will someday be used as an application on the human body? I know that there are currently stick on e-tattoos, but will this ever become permanent? Or is it to difficult to get the connectivity needed (or some other problem?) Also-- could it be removed by using basic tattoo removal techniques?

Hi Kush,

It does not exist. There are “e-tattoos” that are the same exact thing as adhesive label RFID / NFC tags, but use glue that is designed for skin. There are also now “tech tats” which are basically conductive ink that is laid down on skin instead of paper to create rudimentary circuits.

There is no case in which the traditional tattooing process could create conductive pathways in the skin. There are many reasons for this, but the top two are:

  1. Ink that is injected into the skin via tattoo needle becomes separated into small droplets as the skin heals and integrates the ink. Each droplet is separated by skin cells and collagen, and they are not congruous.

  2. Skin itself is conductive. Your body is full of water and salt, and without a proper insulator in place, any conductive circuit pathway running through the skin or body will see huge losses and leakage current issues. Even electric eels shock themselves in the process of hunting their prey… nature hasn’t figured out a good insulator yet.

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Amal-- when I was looking into this I came across Somark-- did they not ever get their RFID ink off the ground?

I was just wondering if anything like this could be a future application-- but you make good points as to why it might not be the best way to go. Microchips seem like a better bet.

No not really. They make a super tiny implantable tag; http://www.somarkinnovations.com/micro-rfid

There are other methods they use for identification, but they are either visual or limited backscatter techniques that don’t offer a robust ID solution.

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I wonder what happened with the ink-- here is an article from a while back-- is this what you mean by back scatter stuff?


Right… that’s the backscatter technique I was talking about. There are UHF backscatter RFID tags, but I believe they were talking about “chipless” RF “ink”… and that has some serious limitations… mainly:

A chipless RFID tag (also known as RF fibers) is one that does not make use of any integrated circuit technology to store information. The tag uses fibers or materials that reflect a portion of the reader’s signal back; the unique return signal can be used as an identifier.

The fibers are shaped in different ways; thin threads, fine wires or even labels or laminates. At volume, they range in cost from ten cents to twenty-five cents per unit.

Chipless RFID tags can be used in many different environments than RFID tags with electronic circuitry. They tend to work over a wider temperature range; these tags also are less sensitive to RF interference.

Chipless tags are sometimes used in anti-counterfeiting with documents. However, since the tags cannot transmit a unique serial number, they are less usable in the supply chain


Can you take a look at Somark’s original patent-- I am not sure what diaelectric means, or if this changes your original opinion that you could not have a serial number from this type of RFID-- it does look like the dielectric bars being situated in different ways is what would provide the unique id?-- but would that even be practical for a tattoo for humans? I don’t really understand all of this, but was hoping you could dumb it down for me-- it seems like chips would be much more practical and efficient, at least in my opinion.


Basically the “ink” is “uniquely identifiable” because the way the ink is physically arranged creates a unique “signal” which could be considered an “ID”. That’s fine for cows and objects with no security or authentication requirements, but human applications require much more capability. The ink “ID” cannot be changed. It cannot do any processing. It cannot perform any security measures. Furthermore, if any part of it becomes deformed, damaged, or worn, the “ID” could also change.

Chips with storage and more capabilities like our xNT are already passé… we’re working on VivoKey, which is a security application processing platform - in short, it can run apps. You can install security, identity, payment, etc. software on VivoKey. It’s orders of magnitude more secure and powerful than any “rfid ink” could ever be.

That makes a lot of sense!! Thanks for that clarification!