IBM brings the fight to counterfeiters with nanosized authentication methods

As counterfeiters continue to up their game, technology's quest for the ultimate method of proving authenticity goes on. We've seen ideas at the nano level before, but IBM thinks its latest research might be so difficult to reverse engineer, that it's impossible for forgers to reproduce. IBM scientist Dr. Heiko Wolf explains that the basic principle involves using the surface tension of water to orient nanorods on a stamp, which can then be printed onto any surface. These nanorods are so small that gravity alone isn't enough to place the particles into predetermined patterns, such as corporate logos. IBM's researchers have also patented a related nano-patterning method that uses fluorescent spheres that can take the color red, blue or green. These then arrange themselves in a completely random order, which is mathematically so difficult to replicate it's known as PUF (physically unclonable function). Both methods can be applied to a broad selection of objects, making them ideal candidates for anti-counterfeit detection for everything from diamonds to passports -- all that's needed to verify authenticity is an optical microscope. Don't get your Picasso out of the vault just yet though, as it's estimated that it'll be another five years or so before the technology will find its way to market.

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