Scientists from ITMO University, Bauman Moscow State Technical University, and the University of Toronto have developed gel ink that can be used to create complex multilayered images with the help of 3D printing.
Such images can be used as tags that will contribute to anti-counterfeiting protection. The proposed method is safe and eco-friendly: it can be used even in the food industry. The results were published in Advanced Functional Materials.
The development of new anti-counterfeiting protection methods is important not just for manufacturers who lose a share of their income to counterfeit goods but also for customers. Low-quality knock-offs, especially of food products, cosmetics, and drugs can be harmful for customers. The most popular anti-counterfeiting protection methods are RFID tags and “invisible” images. The latter approach is more promising, eco-friendly, and safe. While RFID tags make use of rare-earth metals, images can be applied using renewable resources, for example organic and inorganic polymers.
“We succeeded in developing polymer-based gel tags that can contain several images at once. And every such image is an optically active structure. They can be seen in detail only under monochromatic radiation, i.e. at a specific wavelength, and we can make it different for every image. Meaning that even if the perpetrators succeed in forging a part of the tag, there’s a good chance that they wouldn’t be able to forge the others. What’s more, the difference between the original pattern and the forged one will be immediately apparent,” comments Egor Ryabchenko, a student at ITMO’s ChemBio Cluster.
The tags developed at ITMO can be applied not only on even surfaces but also on those with complex geometry. What’s more, the researchers note that the tags don’t percolate even through thin membranes, which makes it possible to use them in food packaging. The invention is also good for protecting brand clothing: the tags look good, can be easily washed off with an organic solvent, and don’t damage or dye fabrics.
“We developed a technology that can now be used as a basis for even more complex types of ink that can be adapted to the needs of specific customers. For example, equipment manufacturers might need better thermal resistance, and those who produce brand-name clothing – better plasticity. Experiments associated with ink formulas are among our future plans. By changing its composition, we’ll be able to give our ink new properties,” concludes Egor Ryabchenko.
This research project was funded by grants from the Russian Science Foundation and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education.