So basically counterfeiting is fraudulent and illegal activity and
counterfeiting can take many forms. It can take the form of something
that is relatively benign where let's say someone fakes up a Gucci
handbag and tries to sell it and pass it off as a real one. It can also
take the form of something a little more serious and potentially
life-threatening where someone tries to introduce fake pills into
the pharmaceutical supply chain. Probably the form that most
everyone is familiar with is currency counterfeiting; suitcases of
fake US currency showing up on the market. There's hundreds of
anti-counterfeiting technologies out on the market right now but
most of them are very narrowly limited to certain circumstances or
certain applications. Whereas ours can be made to fit the needs of
many different applications.
So the microparticles that we're making are approximately the size
of them is about the width of a human hair, to give you some dimention.
When you zoom in on each one of these particles it has individual
stripes and each one of these stripes has a different color. So it is
simply a combination of the number of colors and the arrangements
of the stripes which gives the identity to the particle.
So what we've actually done in this project is we've created a particle
motif and then actually shown that we can manufacture these with
an extreme reproducibility which is really important if you are going to
put them into any commercial application, and then read them out
with very low error rates. So we're not mistaking the identity of a
code when we read it out of blister pack or currency. And then anotther
important thing we wanted to do is to make sure when we read them out
you don't need a million dollar machine to read out the particle, but
is something very small, compact and economical, and what we've
been able to achieve is just simply using iPhones or consumer phones
to read these out.
So this is the prototype decoder that we developed as a lab-scale.
This device consists of three parts: eyepiece, the illumination part and
the objective. So we can easily attach an iPhone to this device and
then we can see our particles.
So how would this actually work in practice. Let's assume you have
some currency and you want to find out whether or not it is authentic.
You would take the device, put it down onto the currency, shine an infrared
light source in through here. The light would travel down, illuminate
the particles which would then emit visible light. That visible light
would travel back up through the lens and a picture of the particles
will be displayed on the screen of your smartphone.
This is a lab-scale device and one of our future goals is to reduce
the size of this down to something that can snuggly fit on the top
of your smartphone.
The current state these particles and the way we read them out are
very general platform for anti-counterfeiting and the nice way about
them is we can add other modules onto them and tailor them for
individual niche markets. In pharmaceuticals you may want to not only
have the particles we currently have but add on other sensors and we
can very easily do this. I think what we're interested in the future is
thinking about each one of these markets and how we tailor
the particles to address the needs in those markets.