'Fingerprinting' of materials could protect against fraud and terrorism

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'Fingerprinting' of materials could protect against fraud and terrorism

Tash Shifrin


Tash Shifrin

Researchers at London’s Imperial College have developed a technique for “fingerprinting” paper and plastic that could be used to authenticate ID cards and track goods.

The Laser Surface Authentication system launched by nanoscience security firm Ingenia Technology can recognise the inherent microscopic differences that gives every paper, plastic, metal and ceramic surface its own “fingerprint”.

The fingerprint on a paper or plastic document – such as a passport, credit cards and packaging – can be read by a low-cost portable laser scanner, but is impossible to replicate. It can be used to authenticate documents or to track goods worldwide, helping to prevent identity theft, fraud and terrorism.

Unlike security devices such as barcodes, holograms and watermarks, which may be highly visible, the LSA system developed by Russell Cowburn, Professor of Nanotechnology at Imperial College, is invisible and can be used covertly.

“This system can be a powerful weapon against fraud, terrorism and identity theft. The beauty of this system is that we do not need to modify the item being protected in any way with tags, chips or ink – it is as if documents and packaging had their own unique DNA,” Professor Cowburn said.

“This makes protection secret, simple to integrate into the manufacturing process and immune to attack. It can be applied retrospectively and is no threat to personal privacy.”


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