Invisible Labels to Protect Against Counterfeit Goods 

What if we could thwart counterfeiters for good? Companies around the world would benefit, and today, we’re one step closer to this reality.

One of the main problems that manufacturers everywhere face is that all current anti-counterfeit measures prove to be merely temporary solutions. Counterfeiters inevitably find their way around these measures, eventually rendering them useless.

Researchers from St. Petersburg Academic University and ITMO University have recently announced a breakthrough technology with which goods such as drugs, electronics, jewelry, and other valuable items can be marked with invisible labels. These labels can only be seen using special equipment, and they act as an extra layer of security that manufacturers can use to prevent costly cases of counterfeiting and forgery.

This ground-breaking research was published in the Advanced Materials journal. The scientists who worked on this research project made waves when they proposed the development of these new labels, which are invisible to the naked eye and difficult to decipher without the proper technology.

The head of the project and assistant professor at the Department of Physics and Engineering at ITMO University, Dmitriy Zuev, has stated that the invisible labels are constructed with laser technology and semiconductor materials.

How Are These Invisible Labels Made?

“With a laser, we add ions of a rare-earth metal called erbium that create a unique image on a sticker made of a silicone nanofilm,” explains Dmitriy Zuev. “To do that, we first make a lattice of holes on the film that are invisible to the naked eye. Some of these holes contain erbium ions, others don’t. When subjected to laser radiation, the holes with erbium change color – and thus they allow us to correctly read the image.”

As you might imagine, this is a complicated technology for counterfeiters to crack. It would involve getting through numerous barriers before deciphering how these invisible labels work and only after hacking into the shipping system.

“Our labels are based on erbium ion luminescence, which is characterized by several parameters: intensity, wavelength, and radiative lifetime,” says Artem Larin, a Ph.D. student at ITMO’s Department of Physics and Engineering. “A combination of these parameters allows us to create additional layers of protection. That’s why when you get the hidden image with an infrared sensor, you will also be able to read the information about the luminescence parameters. This provides an additional degree of protection.”

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