Banknote security goes nano-scale

A Vancouver company has developed a butterfly effect that will stymie banknote counterfeiters, and be used for any manufacturer requiring authentication marking.

October 4, 2011   by PLANT STAFF

VANCOUVER: Nanotech Security Corp. intends to throw a wrench into the best-laid plans of banknote counterfeiters worldwide with its nano-security technology currently in the final stages of development and getting close to commercialization. But that’s just for starters. The Vancouver company says the technology will work for any manufacturer producing products that require authentication marking.

A team of researchers from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC developed the nano-optics technology that the company has applied to create what it describes as the first master shim (or die) manufacturers would use to reproduce nano-holes in a variety of materials in large volumes, quickly and cost-effectively without changing the production process.

The soon-to-be-deployed technology replicates nano-scale structures similar to those found on the iridescent wings of the Morpho butterfly. The company says achieving this shimmering effect involves patented algorithms combined with electron and ion beam technology that create up to hundreds of millions of nano-holes. These holes can be applied to a variety of materials.

Features of the master stamp have been replicated on banknote-grade polypropylene, polyethylene and acetates.


“Proving that our technology can be re-created successfully with the use of a master shim was a crucial step in making it available for commercial use to our potential partners,” says Doug Blakeway, CEO and chairman of Nanotech Security, which has been in the security and forensics technology business since 1985.

Counterfeiting is a $600 billion problem worldwide, which is costing US businesses $250 billion a year, according to the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition Inc., a Washington, DC-based non-profit organization. Canadian businesses are losing $500 million a year to counterfeiting.

Nanotech Security is focusing on banknotes now, but the technology could also be used for a wider range of applications. Examples include computer software packages, DVDs, CDs, hard drives, computer components, and batteries, or high-end consumer goods such as sports wear and equipment, clothing or jewellery, pharmaceuticals, tobacco and alcohol. And it can be applied to high-end security documents such as passports, travel visas, security cards, access cards and tickets to events.

Blakeway says Notes is very close to commercialization. “We anticipate beginning work with several major manufacturers and suppliers to run our shims through their mastering processes to imprint onto their substrates. If this final phase proves as successful as we believe it will, we will be targeting 2012 for [the technology’s] first commercial use.”

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