Nanotechnologists eye up €485bn global fake goods trade with anti-counterfeit innovation

19 Sep 2013

Tyndall National Institute researchers Dr Michéal Burke, Dr Mary Manning and Dr Aidan Quinn, with the anti-counterfeit technology they have collaborated on for the past four years

Over the past four years, a group of nanotechnologists from Cork, Ireland, has been quietly pioneering a new anti-counterfeit device at Tyndall National Institute. Their mission? To take on the €485bn global market in fake goods. Enter a new RFID device featuring readable technology and an optical hologram.

In global nanotech and materials science circles, Tyndall National Institute has made a name for itself for its pioneering nano-science innovations in order to disrupt areas such as clean-tech, med-tech and pharmaceuticals.

The ICT specialists and scientists there also work closely with industry in order to detect market gaps, and develop ensuing technologies to fill those gaps.

At the nano scale

The team behind the new device comprises Dr Mary Manning, Dr Aidan Quinn and Dr Michéal Burke. The trio filed a patent application for their innovation in June.

In terms of the latest technology to spawn from Tyndall, the trio are describing it as a “low-cost un-cloneable anti-counterfeit device”.

With projected costs as little as 10-15 cent per label for a fully integrated radio-frequency ID (RFID) tag, the three scientists believe that their new technology has the scope to “revolutionise” the authentication and tracking of credit cards, medical devices and high-end consumer goods.

At the minute, such product sectors are hampered by counterfeit copies that cost billions in fraudulent transactions and lost revenue each year.

In Ireland alone, last year, €20m was lost to fraud on Irish cards ,with €3m of this figure caused by skimmed cards.

Fusing nanoscience with technology to take on the counterfeiters

Quinn from the Nanotechnology Group at Tyndall, said today that Government and industry spanning the globe are constantly looking for new ways to combat illegal counterfeits and credit card cloning.

What’s the deal with this anti-counterfeit technology?

The readable device the nanotechnologists at Tyndall have pioneered apparently combines an optical hologram with “unique” electrical signatures on an aluminium label.

The latter feature, they believe, will make it “technically impossible” for forgers to copy.

Moving to the device itself, and Quinn had this to say:

“It was essential that the device itself was un-cloneable, tamper-proof and affordable to end users.

“This was achieved through the application of Tyndall’s nanotechnology expertise and the fabrication and processing infrastructure available in Tyndall’s Flexi-Fab facilities.

“Being able to manage everything on-site helps to continuously improve the process technologies and streamline the research-to-market cycle.”

Four years in the making

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded the initiative under the FORM strategic research cluster. (FORM stands for Functional Oxides and Related Materials for Electronics).

Following the patent filing, the research team at Tyndall is currently in discussions with industry to explore opportunities with sectors where authentication and traceability are essential to ensure the safety and integrity of the product.

They believe that key market segments that could benefit from the technology include RFID chip-based technology such as credit cards and smart cards, passports, medical devices, pharmaceuticals and food products.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic