B.C. security firm sets eyes on stamps

$2.6 million raised for nanotech development

By Jesse Robitaille

Postal authorities around the world are looking to bolster their anti-counterfeiting measures, and they may look to nanotechnology for help.

While the next step in sizing up this new technology is a big one, there has been solid interest from investors, who recently provided $2.6 million during the latest round of fundraising, which ended Aug. 26.

“We were pleased with the strong interest shown in this financing, which went quickly despite the tough market conditions,” said Doug Blakeway, CEO of British Columbia’s Nanotech Security Corp., which has been in the security business for more than 20 years. “This financing, along with our existing cash on hand, provides the company with enough working capital to ramp up for sales opportunities for optical thin film and KolourOptik nano-optical banknote products, which are now presenting themselves in greater numbers than ever.”

KolourOptik is Nanotech’s “anti-counterfeiting nanotechnology solution” based on the blue morpho (Morpho menelaus) butterfly. A grid of tiny “nano-sized holes” replicates the interaction light has with the butterfly’s wings, and the result is the creation of vibrantly coloured images that look similar to light-emitting diodes (also known as LEDs) when illuminated. It’s activated by a simple tilt or rotation and has better resolution than high-end LED displays, Blakeway said.

“Enterprises and central banks can apply this anti-counterfeiting solution on a variety of surfaces, including metals, plastics, acrylic, cloth, and paper, without the need for dyes or pigments,” said Blakeway, who added the anti-counterfeiting security tags could also be used on postage stamps and covers.

In fact, Blakeway said KolourOptik tags could be embedded on any packaging, offering a broad range of market opportunities aside from postal security.

Another important factor is, unlike holograms, these tags cannot be peeled off. And because of how the nanostructures interact with light, this new security feature can also store data, which can be read and verified with an optical reader.

“All of these features make KolourOptik images stand out from traditional holograms,” said Blakeway, who added there has been “immediate interest” from “top-10 issuing authorities” around the world.

SECURE STAMPS

Clint Landrock, Nanotech’s chief technology officer, said revenue (or tax) stamps would make good use of the new technology.

“It certainly is applicable to those areas,” said Landrock. “Tax stamps are the classic example.”

Landrock helped discover that the structural patterns in the blue morpho’s wings could be recreated with nanotechnology, something that at the same time would enhance polymer substances.

“We wanted structures that would increase the surface area for more electron flow or provide interesting optical phenomena that would enhance the solar cell properties,” he explained. “One of the main areas we looked at were butterfly wings. The blue morpho was particularly interesting to me, and we wanted to be able to understand how to manufacture such structures.”

Landrock said he quickly realized the blue morpho’s wings were “too complex and fragile to recreate properly,” so he started looking at other ways these structures could be manufactured.

“That’s where I started looking more at these nano-hole structures. After much iteration we learned we can mimic and control light like the butterfly.”

Landrock said one of the more recent developments was being able to manufacture these nanostructures in a way that’s similar to holograms.

“Direct embossing is a keen area of research we’re undertaking now, and we’ve had a good measure of success with this. These nanostructures can actually strengthen the material they’re struck into. Generally, holograms are in the micron-scale of structure size, but because we’re in the sub-micron scale (or nano-scale) we can actually increase the strength, depending on the material, up to 10 times.”

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