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The Effect Of Fluorescent Lights On Rfid Systems Operating In Backscatter Mode

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Industrial Technology

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1412.1 - 12.1412.11



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Paper Authors


Ghassan Ibrahim Bloomsburg University

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Associate Professor, Electronics Engineering Technology/Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, PA

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Jeremy Sensenig Bloomsburg University

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Undergraduate-Electronics Engineering Technology/ Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, PA

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Effect of Fluorescent Lights on the RFID Systems operating in Backscatter mode


Radio frequency identification (RFID) systems are widely utilized in retail stores and manufacturing environment, where fluorescent lights are commonly used. Fluorescent lights are energized with AC power at certain frequencies depending on their design and go through two cycles of ionization/de-ionization during each power cycle which makes them time varying RF reflectors. There is a possibility that the time varying component of the RFID signal reflected by the fluorescent light may share the same spectrum as similar components originating from the RFID tags, when they are operating in backscatter mode. This dynamic reflection of RF signals may interfere with the operation of the reverse link of the RFID system

A research project was conducted within the Bloomsburg University electronics engineering technology (EET) program to investigate the effect of line and electronic ballast driven fluorescent lights on RFID systems. This opened an opportunity to involve EET students in the research through an independent study course. A sophomore student undertook the task of implementing the experimental measurements under the direction of the instructor/researcher. The experience was enormously beneficial to the student. He learned the concepts of operation of RFID, the operation of various fluorescent light systems and their electronic ballast design, gained knowledge in RF propagation and acquired skills in using RF measurement equipment, RF measurement techniques and data analysis. For a sophomore student the research study gave him an excellent perspective on a modern state of the art technology, and the opportunity to learn what the engineering technologist profession entails.

It became evident from the experimental results that the high speed switching of fluorescent lights by the electronic ballast control voltage modulates the incident RFID carrier signal in a manner similar to that of a modulated backscattered RFID transponder signal, thereby opening the possibility of corrupting the transponder data. Some of the experimental results were presented by the student at the college of science and technology research day as part of his course requirements, where he was questioned on his work by the faculty and students.

This paper will present the experimental results, the methods used in the measurements and the educational outcome of the independent study.


Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has been gaining significant attention in the technology and business arenas. The two main system components are the RFID reader and RFID tags which are attached to items to be identified (merchandise, people, pets, furniture, instruments etc.). An RFID system has a forward (reader to tag) RF link and reverse (tag to reader) RF link. These systems are widely utilized in retail stores and manufacturing environment, where fluorescent lights are commonly used. The fluorescent lights act as RF signal reflectors which may introduce undesirable effects on signals reflected from RFID tags.

Ibrahim, G., & Sensenig, J. (2007, June), The Effect Of Fluorescent Lights On Rfid Systems Operating In Backscatter Mode Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1816

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