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

Friday, 23 December, 2011

NanoTech Security anti-counterfeiting measure - pix 01NanoTech Security anti-counterfeiting measure - pix 04

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).

NanoTech Security anti-counterfeiting measure - pix 02

NanoTech Security anti-counterfeiting measure - pix 03

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).


Canada polymer $100 banknote hands-on look finally! (with video)

Thursday, 17 November, 2011

2011 Canada New Polymer $100 - back - pix 18

I’ve written and speculated extensively about the new Canadian polymer notes. Finally, I am excited to say I’ve got one in my hand now. Have a watch of this slideshow of the new polymer C$100. In comparison, watch this slideshow of the HK$10 (which is less than US/C $2).

Here is a video of me checking out the new polymer $100, I slowed down the video at various place so you can have a closer look at some features.


1) Raised ink: I definitely feel the raised ink on the large “100” and the shoulders and different parts of the bill.

2011 Canada New Polymer $100 - front - pix 09

2) What hidden 100? I have given up trying to find the hidden numbers (using a single light source) in the maple leaf! Some people can see it, not me. So if this security feature is hard to use, or only some people (or small percent of people) can use it, I am questioning if this is a good security feature at all!

Note: I wonder if this feature is the WinDOE® (Diffractive Optical Element) as I wrote in “12 possible security features” in March?

New Bank of Canada $100 Polymer Note - Hidden numbers

3) Polymer but not cheap plastic feel: I actually quite like the feel and don’t feel it is “cheap” or anything thing. It feel like it is good quality. But only time and actually use will tell.

4) Large transparent window and metallic strip: I LOVE them! To me, they are the best part of the bill. They are extremely easy to inspect and tell if it is a real $100 with minimum training! They are hard to fake thanks to Securency International’s security features and patented technologies.

2011 Canada New Polymer $100 - front - pix 06

Further info: In March, I wrote a speculative technology piece with extensive links to patents by Securency International, “Bank of Canada’s new polymer banknote – Patents & technologies by Securency International” After the new $100 was announced in June, I wrote “Canada New Polymer $100 Notes in Nov 2011 – Now your money is smooth & will bounce!

2011 Canada New Polymer $100 - back - pix 22

2011 Canada New Polymer $100 - back - pix 20

2011 Canada New Polymer $100 - back - pix 12

2011 Canada New Polymer $100 - front - pix 02

The HK$10 (less than US/C$ 2)

HK polymer $10 (2007)

Here are some design info about the polymer $100 from Bank of Canada:

“$100 Note – Design Features
Portrait: Sir Robert L. Borden, Prime Minister, 1911–20
Signatures: Left – T. Macklem, Right – M.J. Carney
Size: 152.4 x 69.85 mm (6.0 x 2.75 inches)
Issue Date: November 2011
Theme: Medical Innovation Read the rest of this entry »

Bank of Canada’s new polymer banknote – Patents & technologies by Securency International

Friday, 11 March, 2011

Nov 17th update:  Happy to say I finally got a chance to play with my new Canada polymer C$100 bill (with video).
June 20, 2011 Update: Today (June 20th), the Bank of Canada actually shows us the new polymer $100 notes. I’ve more coverage and technical analysis (with video) here in “Canada New Polymer $100 Notes in Nov 2011 – Now your money is smooth & will bounce!


Bank of Canada’s new polymer banknote uses Securency International polymer substrate

March 13, 2011 Update: I’ve got confirmation from BoC on Friday afternoon the Guardian® (supplied by Securency International) is indeed the polymer substrate to be used in the new plastic banknotes. By the way, for some reason Securency International‘s website seems to be down for the last few days.


It was nice to have an informative phone interview with a Bank of Canada representative this morning about the newly announced plastic banknote (see my lengthy post here). As expected, I was unable to get an official confirmation of whether the Guardian® polymer substrate (supplied by Securency International) will be used. At the same time, I’ve now gathered enough evidences to convince myself that the Guardian® substrate or an enhanced version of it will be used in Canada. After all, the Bank confirmed that they are using “industry proven technology” (the keyword here is “proven”) and stated in its public release,

“As part of its ongoing technology research program with its partners, the Bank has developed some new security features and adapted other existing features for the Canadian context.” [K: so it can be an “enhanced” version if Securency want to do some more testing on the “improvements” first?]

It should be noted that I know banks don’t usually like to talk about their security systems in detail. Many banks still believe (falsely) that the less we know, the more secure their systems are. Not true! I believe that good security has to be based on solid science and careful implementations. And “security by obscurity” is never enough nor secure.

Enough from me, if you are technical and want to learn more, I’ve found some Securency patents for you to study and learn from. As I wrote in a 2006 article as a side comment,

For the patent geek out there, […] thanks to “2165 The Best Mode Requirement” of the MPEP, patent is required to disclose the “best mode” to make this device thus making the patent an interesting read.

Some US patents by Securency:

7,871,741 ,  Method of producing diffractive structures in security documents

7,790,361Methods of producing diffractive structures in security documents

7,652,757Method and apparatus for inspection of security articles incorporating a diffractive optical projection element

7,488,002Security and/or value document

7,040,664Self-verifying security documents

7,029,733Printed matter producing reflective intaglio effect

6,995,383Method of verifying the authenticity of a security document and document for use in such a method

Some US Patents by others that contain the keyword “Securency”:

7,820,282 (3M), Foam security substrate

7,655,296 (3M), Ink-receptive foam article

Patent searches

You can do the USPTO Patent search yourself for Securency to read more. Or you can use the Google patents search for Securency where you can download patents and patent applications with text and diagrams in PDF files (pretty handy).

Secrets of Bank of Canada’s new plastic money: An advance look of 12 possible security features

Friday, 11 March, 2011

Nov 17th update:  Happy to say I finally got a chance to play with my new Canada polymer C$100 bill (with video).
June 20, 2011 Update: Today (June 20th), the Bank of Canada actually shows us the new polymer $100 notes. I’ve more coverage and technical analysis (with video) here in “Canada New Polymer $100 Notes in Nov 2011 – Now your money is smooth & will bounce!


The Bank of Canada today (March 11, 2011) announced that it will begin circulating new polymer (plastic) banknotes starting with $100 in Nov 2011 ($50 in Mar 2012, $20, $10, and $5 notes to be issued by end of 2013). Publicly, BoC has NOT disclosed what security features will be deployed in these polymer banknotes. But basing on research using publicly available information, I will try to give you an advance look of 12 **possible** security features in the new Canadian polymer money.

Clues that lead to the “secret”/unannounced 12 possible security features

I know Hong Kong has issued polymer $10 note (in fact I have one in my hand) and some googling lead me to the interesting HKU technical note “Ten-dollar polymer note: Polymer currency technology” (pdf) and the HK government info about the $10 note (pdf). Here is an excerpt from the tech note,

“Different polymer substrates are available for manufacturing purposes, but the one used in printing banknotes is unique and is not commercially available. Hong Kong is using the polymer type called Guardian®, and they are made from polymer biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP).”

From Guardian®, I then found that it is made by Securency International. And if I had known what to look, I would have found BoC actually stated this in its backgrounder: the polymer substrate will be supplied by Securency International.

Bank of Canada’s new polymer banknote uses Securency International polymer substrate

An advance look

I want to be clear that the following are 12 security features of Securency International‘s Guardian substrate. Since I don’t think Securency make any other polymer substrate, therefore logically BoC must be using Guardian so these 12 security features are all possible/available to BoC.

Here are the 12 possible security features with emphasis added. Since I don’t have the costs associated with these features and I don’t have any inside knowledge whatsoever, I am only taking some wild guesses and base my comments on what I see in the HK$10 note (about less than C$2).

[March 11th, 2011 Update: I did some more research and added this article, “Bank of Canada’s new polymer banknote – Patents & technologies by Securency International“.]

12 **possible** security features of Canada’s new polymer money

1. LATITUDE™ (link to pix) [Kempton: likely, especially on higher value banknote like $100]


“LATITUDE™ is an optically variable device (OVD) that is integrated into the transparent window area of the substrate and allows for design freedom, which enhances the security of the banknote. Through tilting the banknote, multiple images and optical effects are observed. ”

2. WinTHRU® (Complex Window) (link to pix) [K: very likely, it is very easy for users to identify a fake]


The ability to create transparent areas (or clear and complete windows) is a prime security feature within Guardian® substrate. Including a clear area in a banknote has proven to virtually eliminate the problem of the ‘casual counterfeiter’, who tries to copy or scan banknotes on readily available reprographic equipment (like colour copiers and scanners) [… more …]”

3. WinDOE® (Diffractive Optical Element) (link to pix) [K: don’t see why not?]

“The WinDOE® (Diffractive Optical Element) is a holographic structure applied to the surface of the clear window. When collimated light such as a distant point light source passes through the WinDOE®, it is transformed by the WinDOE® structure into a recognisable pattern (image) by the process of diffraction. The user can view the image in two ways. By holding the WinDOE® up to the eye and looking directly at a distant point source the user will see the image appear in space between the note and the light source. The appearance of the image will depend on the light source used. [… more …]”

4. G-switch® (Dynamic optical colour shift) [K: Hmmm, why not?]

“G-switch® is a dynamic optical feature that changes colour when tilted under a light source. Read the rest of this entry »

Plastic with memory

Monday, 28 May, 2007

Well, it is time for another entry from the wonderful Plastic 2 (after my previous entries on plastic). Here are some info on plastic with memory.Plastic with memory

Metal replacement plastic

Monday, 14 May, 2007

Well, it is time for another entry from the wonderful Plastic 2 (after my previous entry). Here is some neat metal replacement plastic.

Metal replacement plastic (a) Metal replacement plastic (b)

Surgical precision plastic

Saturday, 5 May, 2007

This is the second time I borrow Plastic 2 from the public library. I know sooner or later I may as well pay that C$56 to buy the book. (smile)

The first time I just borrow it for fun to study about advancement in plastics. This time around, I had an excuse as I am doing some initial research for a early stage potential documentary idea about NeuroArm, the world’s first MRI-compatible surgical robot (designed and built in Canada). I am guessing that plastics may have played an important part in NeuroArm because metal doesn’t play well in MRI. Mind you, this research may bring me more useless facts that I probably just collect and never use. (bigger smile)

RADEL R polyphenylsulfone is a really cool surgical precision plastic from Solvay Advanced Polymers.


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