Anti-counterfeit ink tech bags Australian government funding

Researchers at Macquarie University in Australia have been awarded almost A$450,000 (nearly $300,000) in funding for their work on security ink that can be applied to just about any material.

The grant from the Australian Research Council (ARC) is for security inks based on lanthanide-doped nanomaterials, that the developers say can be applied to metal, glass, plastic, paper and potentially other surfaces.

The ink technology developed by the Macquarie team – led by Prof Jim Piper of the university’s nanoscale biophotonics unit – exploits differing decay rates in the nanoparticles to generate a unique signature that they claim cannot be re-engineered.

The inks be coded in four dimensions, introducing a time element that differentiates them from currently-used security inks, according to the researchers. They are also codable and can be provided with a unique identification that creates a link between the physical and digital domains.

Macquarie University is collaborating on the project with privately-held Australian company MOS technologies Pty – part of Chinese group GMKW which specialises in industrial traceability and vision guided robotics.

The inks can be embedded directly into physical products or onto their labels, and read using a reader similar to a supermarket barcode scanner, according to Piper. Unlike most devices used in this way at the moment, it uses infrared rather than ultraviolet light to make the ink glow.

“When the scanner hits the ink with an invisible laser beam, the particles get excited and glow. When the laser is switched off, the glow starts to fade, and it’s the fading that is timecoded,” he explains.

“The scanner can also be programmed remotely to pick up specific features of the label as required.”

Macquarie University says the tech could be used for legal documents such as ID, travel and qualification papers, as well as medical and pharmaceutical products, food and beverage products, and luxury goods.

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