Unique patterns made from tiny, randomly scattered silver nanowires have been created by a group of researchers from South Korea in an attempt to authenticate goods and tackle the growing problem of counterfeiting.
The nanoscale ‘fingerprints’ are made by randomly dumping 20 to 30 individual nanowires, each with an average length of 10 to 50 µm, onto a thin plastic film, and could be used to tag a variety of goods from electronics and drugs to credit cards and bank notes.
According to the researchers, the fingerprints are almost impossible to replicate because of the natural randomness of their creation and the difficulty associated with manipulating such small materials.
Lead author of the research Professor Hyotcherl Ihee, from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Institute for Basic Science (IBS), said: “It is nearly impossible to replicate the fingerprints due to the difficulty in trying to manipulate the tiny nanowires into a desired pattern. The cost of generating such an identical counterfeit pattern would generally be much higher than the value of the typical product being protected.”