Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Tiny particles could help verify goods: Chemical engineers hope smartphone-readable microparticles could crack down on counterfeiting

Illustration: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT
Illustration: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

Abstract:
Some 2 to 5 percent of all international trade involves counterfeit goods, according to a 2013 United Nations report. These illicit products — which include electronics, automotive and aircraft parts, pharmaceuticals, and food — can pose safety risks and cost governments and private companies hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Tiny particles could help verify goods: Chemical engineers hope smartphone-readable microparticles could crack down on counterfeiting

Cambridge, MA | Posted on April 15th, 2014

Many strategies have been developed to try to label legitimate products and prevent illegal trade — but these tags are often too easy to fake, are unreliable, or cost too much to implement, according to MIT researchers who have developed a new alternative.

Led by MIT chemical engineering professor Patrick Doyle and Lincoln Laboratory technical staff member Albert Swiston, the researchers have invented a new type of tiny, smartphone-readable particle that they believe could be deployed to help authenticate currency, electronic parts, and luxury goods, among other products. The particles, which are invisible to the naked eye, contain colored stripes of nanocrystals that glow brightly when lit up with near-infrared light.

These particles can easily be manufactured and integrated into a variety of materials, and can withstand extreme temperatures, sun exposure, and heavy wear, says Doyle, the senior author of a paper describing the particles in the April 13 issue of Nature Materials. They could also be equipped with sensors that can "record" their environments — noting, for example, if a refrigerated vaccine has ever been exposed to temperatures too high or low.

The paper's lead authors are MIT postdoc Jiseok Lee and graduate student Paul Bisso. MIT graduate students Rathi Srinivas and Jae Jung Kim also contributed to the research.

'A massive encoding capacity'

The new particles are about 200 microns long and include several stripes of different colored nanocrystals, known as "rare earth upconverting nanocrystals." These crystals are doped with elements such as ytterbium, gadolinium, erbium, and thulium, which emit visible colors when exposed to near-infrared light. By altering the ratios of these elements, the researchers can tune the crystals to emit any color in the visible spectrum.

To manufacture the particles, the researchers used stop-flow lithography, a technique developed previously by Doyle. This approach allows shapes to be imprinted onto parallel flowing streams of liquid monomers — chemical building blocks that can form longer chains called polymers. Wherever pulses of ultraviolet light strike the streams, a reaction is set off that forms a solid polymeric particle.

In this case, each polymer stream contains nanocrystals that emit different colors, allowing the researchers to form striped particles. So far, the researchers have created nanocrystals in nine different colors, but it should be possible to create many more, Doyle says.

Using this procedure, the researchers can generate vast quantities of unique tags. With particles that contain six stripes, there are 1 million different possible color combinations; this capacity can be exponentially enhanced by tagging products with more than one particle. For example, if the researchers created a set of 1,000 unique particles and then tagged products with any 10 of those particles, there would be 1030 possible combinations — far more than enough to tag every grain of sand on Earth.

"It's really a massive encoding capacity," says Bisso, who started this project while on the technical staff at Lincoln Lab. "You can apply different combinations of 10 particles to products from now until long past our time and you'll never get the same combination."

"The use of these upconverting nanocrystals is quite clever and highly enabling," says Jennifer Lewis, a professor of biologically inspired engineering at Harvard University who was not involved in the research. "There are several striking features of this work, namely the exponentially scaling encoding capacities and the ultralow decoding false-alarm rate."

Versatile particles

The microparticles could be dispersed within electronic parts or drug packaging during the manufacturing process, incorporated directly into 3-D-printed objects, or printed onto currency, the researchers say. They could also be incorporated into ink that artists could use to authenticate their artwork.

The researchers demonstrated the versatility of their approach by using two polymers with radically different material properties — one hydrophobic and one hydrophilic —to make their particles. The color readouts were the same with each, suggesting that the process could easily be adapted to many types of products that companies might want to tag with these particles, Bisso says.

"The ability to tailor the tag's material properties without impacting the coding strategy is really powerful," he says. "What separates our system from other anti-counterfeiting technologies is this ability to rapidly and inexpensively tailor material properties to meet the needs of very different and challenging requirements, without impacting smartphone readout or requiring a complete redesign of the system."

Another advantage to these particles is that they can be read without an expensive decoder like those required by most other anti-counterfeiting technologies. Using a smartphone camera equipped with a lens offering twentyfold magnification, anyone could image the particles after shining near-infrared light on them with a laser pointer. The researchers are also working on a smartphone app that would further process the images and reveal the exact composition of the particles.

The research was funded by the U.S. Air Force, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, the Singapore-MIT Alliance, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Army Research Office, and the National Institutes of Health.

####

For more information, please click here

Copyright © Massachusetts Institute of Technology

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Spin current detection in quantum materials unlocks potential for alternative electronics October 15th, 2017

Quantum manipulation power for quantum information processing gets a boost: Improving the efficiency of quantum heat engines involves reducing the number of photons in a cavity, ultimately impacting quantum manipulation power October 14th, 2017

Injecting electrons jolts 2-D structure into new atomic pattern: Berkeley Lab study is first to show potential of energy-efficient next-gen electronic memory October 13th, 2017

The secret to improving liquid crystal's mechanical performance: Better lubricating properties of lamellar liquid crystals could stem from changing the mobility of their structural dislocations by adding nanoparticles October 13th, 2017

Law enforcement/Anti-Counterfeiting/Security/Loss prevention

A dash of gold improves microlasers: The precious metal provides a 'nano' solution for improving disease detection, defense and cybersecurity applications October 9th, 2017

Graphene based terahertz absorbers: Printable graphene inks enable ultrafast lasers in the terahertz range September 13th, 2017

Leti and Partners in PiezoMAT Project Develop New Fingerprint Technology for Highly Reliable Security and ID Applications: Ultra-high Resolution Pressure Sensing Uses Matrices of Vertical Piezoelectric Nanowire To Reconstruct the Smallest Features of Human Fingerprints September 5th, 2017

Videos/Movies

Columbia engineers invent breakthrough millimeter-wave circulator IC October 6th, 2017

DNA triggers shape-shifting in hydrogels, opening a new way to make 'soft robots' September 21st, 2017

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Rice U. study: Vibrating nanoparticles interact: Placing nanodisks in groups can change their vibrational frequencies October 16th, 2017

Spin current detection in quantum materials unlocks potential for alternative electronics October 15th, 2017

Injecting electrons jolts 2-D structure into new atomic pattern: Berkeley Lab study is first to show potential of energy-efficient next-gen electronic memory October 13th, 2017

Rice U. lab surprised by ultraflat magnets: Researchers create atom-thick alloys with unanticipated magnetic properties October 13th, 2017

Discoveries

Rice U. study: Vibrating nanoparticles interact: Placing nanodisks in groups can change their vibrational frequencies October 16th, 2017

Spin current detection in quantum materials unlocks potential for alternative electronics October 15th, 2017

Injecting electrons jolts 2-D structure into new atomic pattern: Berkeley Lab study is first to show potential of energy-efficient next-gen electronic memory October 13th, 2017

The secret to improving liquid crystal's mechanical performance: Better lubricating properties of lamellar liquid crystals could stem from changing the mobility of their structural dislocations by adding nanoparticles October 13th, 2017

Announcements

Rice U. study: Vibrating nanoparticles interact: Placing nanodisks in groups can change their vibrational frequencies October 16th, 2017

Spin current detection in quantum materials unlocks potential for alternative electronics October 15th, 2017

Quantum manipulation power for quantum information processing gets a boost: Improving the efficiency of quantum heat engines involves reducing the number of photons in a cavity, ultimately impacting quantum manipulation power October 14th, 2017

The secret to improving liquid crystal's mechanical performance: Better lubricating properties of lamellar liquid crystals could stem from changing the mobility of their structural dislocations by adding nanoparticles October 13th, 2017

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals/White papers

Rice U. study: Vibrating nanoparticles interact: Placing nanodisks in groups can change their vibrational frequencies October 16th, 2017

Spin current detection in quantum materials unlocks potential for alternative electronics October 15th, 2017

Quantum manipulation power for quantum information processing gets a boost: Improving the efficiency of quantum heat engines involves reducing the number of photons in a cavity, ultimately impacting quantum manipulation power October 14th, 2017

The secret to improving liquid crystal's mechanical performance: Better lubricating properties of lamellar liquid crystals could stem from changing the mobility of their structural dislocations by adding nanoparticles October 13th, 2017

Military

Rice U. study: Vibrating nanoparticles interact: Placing nanodisks in groups can change their vibrational frequencies October 16th, 2017

On the road to fire-free, lithium-ion batteries made with asphalt October 12th, 2017

A dash of gold improves microlasers: The precious metal provides a 'nano' solution for improving disease detection, defense and cybersecurity applications October 9th, 2017

A flexible new platform for high-performance electronics September 29th, 2017

Automotive/Transportation

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Introduces New Automotive Platform to Fuel Tomorrow’s Connected Car: AutoPro™ provides a full range of technologies and manufacturing services to help carmakers harness the power of silicon for a new era of ‘connected intelligence’ October 12th, 2017

Organic/inorganic sulfur may be key for safe rechargeable lithium batteries October 12th, 2017

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Announces Availability of Embedded MRAM on Leading 22FDX® FD-SOI Platform: Advanced embedded non-volatile memory solution delivers ‘connected intelligence’ by expanding SoC capabilities on the 22nm process node September 20th, 2017

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Introduces New 12nm FinFET Technology for High-Performance Applications September 20th, 2017

Aerospace/Space

Leti Develops Proof of Concept to Test Wireless Systems in Aircraft: Will Present Results of Joint Project at AeroTech Conference And Exhibition in Fort Worth, Texas, Sept. 26-28 September 20th, 2017

A revolution in lithium-ion batteries is becoming more realistic September 5th, 2017

The July 23 close fly-by of asteroid 2017 BS5 is explored in a Q&A with Dr. John S. Lewis, chief scientist at Deep Space Industries July 23rd, 2017

National Space Society Governor Scott Pace Named to National Space Council as Executive Secretary July 18th, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project