Anti-Counterfeiting Technology in Materials Science

Improvements in high quality printing and 3D printers provide many benefits, but there is a drawback as well. Superior technology presents more opportunity for counterfeiting.

Interestingly, currency is not the only market that counterfeiters attack. As quickly as criminals devise new schemes, science offers enhanced materials for anti-counterfeiting technology.

Consumer Goods

The consumer goods industry is experiencing increased counterfeiting and tampering. Products from food to pharmaceuticals are targets of counterfeiters who attempt to sell stolen, expired or fake items on the consumer market.

Anti-counterfeiting technologies are useful for many manufacturers. Benefits include protecting high value brand name items, goods that are frequently stolen for resale or sold after expiration and pharmaceutical products subject to placebo knock-offs.

High dollar products are not the only target of counterfeiters, any product that can be manufactured cheaply and sold at a large profit is subject to criminal activity.

Anti-Erasing Ink

Anti-Erasing (ATE) ink is available for packaging and product labels that cannot be erased or changed. Tampering with the ink results in ghosting. The use of the ink prevents counterfeiters from changing the expiration dates on products to resell them after expiration.

Other information, including the manufacturer in a supply chain, can be printed to prevent counterfeit goods from being used in production. In addition, bar codes on stolen lots cannot be changed making the product useless for normal resale.

Pharmaceutical products are often the target of conunterfeiting.

Plastic Identifiers

Particle taggants can be added to plastic resins providing a unique manufacturer identification system. The non-removable particles have a chemical signature that is embedded into the item. Detection equipment can then be used to read the signature and ensure authenticity. Desktop and small handheld scanners provide quick and affordable product verification.

Other forms of nanotagging have been used in biosensor technology for detecting contaminants or bacteria in water and food. The same technology can embed nanotags into products to ensure authenticity.

Quantum Dot

Optical devices and quantum dots can create a spectral bar code for extreme security methods. The micro-resonant structure allows a band of specific colors to transmit. When both the quantum dots and spectral structure are used together, the bar codes become almost impossible to reproduce.


This method of protection is not limited to just personal identification cards. Holograms can be embedded or over-laid on bar code, price labels and logos. The technology works with 2D and 3D stickers and dot matrix printers.

Anti-counterfeiting technology is also useful for item recall in identifying exact batch numbers. The technology prevents changing product bar code or other identifiers for submission of non-recalled products for refund.

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Image Credit:
Further Reading: Hong Kong Polytechnic, Plastics Color Corp

Kris Walker

Written by

Kris Walker

Kris has a BA(hons) in Media & Performance from the University of Salford. Aside from overseeing the editorial and video teams, Kris can be found in far flung corners of the world capturing the story behind the science on behalf of our clients. Outside of work, Kris is finally seeing a return on 25 years of hurt supporting Manchester City.


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