NanoTech Security – Plasmonics as an anti-counterfeiting measure for banknotes and pharmaceuticals

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I came across NanoTech Security‘s (a Surrey, B.C. based company) interesting anti-counterfeiting measure for banknotes or pharmaceuticals in this Fast Company article “A Never Before Seen Optical Trick Creates Ultra-Secure Cash“. [HT Bruce Schneier]

Imagine a bill covered with microscopic holes that make it glow slightly in the light. It’s tech borrowed from a butterfly, and it may soon be foiling counterfeiters around the world.

If all goes as planned, the world’s supply of cash will soon be secured with a nano-scale optical defense that is as secure as it is visually impressive. [...]

The technology was inspired by the Blue Morpho butterfly, whose brilliant blue coloration comes not from pigment but the way that tiny holes in its scales reflect light. But the tech, called Nano-Optic Technology for Enhanced Security (NOtES), is different from the Morpho butterfly’s wings, and pretty much all other bio-inspired reflective optical technologies, in that it is both extraordinarily thin and functions even in dim light.

NOtES exploits an obscure area of physics to accomplish its bright and sharp display, known as plasmonic (or via Wikipedia). Light waves interact with the array of nano-scale holes on a NOtES display–which are typically 100-200 nanometers in diameter–in a way that creates what are called “surface plasmons.” In the words of the company, this means light “[collects] on the films surface and creates higher than expected optical outputs by creating an electromagnetic field, called surface plasmonic resonance.”

If you are interested in digging deeper into the technical details, have a read of “US patent 2010/0271174 – Security document with electroactive polymer power source and nano-optical display” by I|D|ME‘s Chief Scientific Officier Bozena Kaminska (a list of Bozena’s US Patent) and Chief Technology Officier Clinton K. Landrock (a list of Clint’s US Patent) (by the way, here is Clint’s Twitter).

Here are two informative videos from NanoTech Security so you can see how cool it is.

NOtES – An Introduction

NTS NOtES Master Shim and Embossed Banknote Grade Polypropolyene

I am a tech geek so I love cool technologies but I am also realistic as I understand there are many real world requirements and challenges before this or any other advanced technologies are accepted and adopted.

By the way, Bank of Canada is in the process of launching the 2011 series of polymer banknotes with technologies by Securency International and BoC and printed in Canada by Note Printing Australia (NPA is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia). So far, BoC has launched the new polymer $100 banknotes in Nov 2011, and will launch the $50 in March 2012, the widely circulated $20 in Fall 2012. And $10 and $5 before the end of 2013. To deter counterfeiting of banknotes, BoC plans to update its banknotes design faster than before (in 8 years time).

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Further links/readings:

* Gizmodo article “The Money of the Future Will Shine Like Crazy”

* NanoTech Security (NTS) is a TSX-Venture listed company and you can download its financial & regulatory filings from the Canadian Securities Administrators SEDAR database by searching for “NanoTech Security Corp“. For some reason, I could only find annual reports from 2003 – 2008. I am surprised I couldn’t find annual reports for 2009 and 2010 in the SEDAR database. What happened to these two reports?

P.S. For the record, here is some not so positive news about Securency International (July 1st, 2011 press release) and Reserve Bank of Australia & NPA (July 1st, 2011 press release).

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