NANOTECHNOLOGY BREAKTHROUGH BY IMPERIAL COLLEGE WILL HELP THE WAR AGAINST TERRORISM

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Ingenia Technology Limited today launches an exciting breakthrough proprietary technology, developed by Imperial College London and Durham University - the Laser Surface Authentication system (LSA). The LSA system recognises the inherent 'fingerprint' within all materials such as paper, plastic, metal and ceramics.

The LSA system is a whole new approach to security and could prove valuable in the war against terrorism through its ability to make secure the authenticity of passports, ID cards and other documents such as birth certificates.

This technological breakthrough has been masterminded by Professor Russell Cowburn, Professor of Nanotechnology in the Department of Physics at Imperial College London.

Every paper, plastic, metal and ceramic surface is microscopically different and has its own 'fingerprint'. Professor Cowburn's LSA system uses a laser to read this naturally occurring 'fingerprint'. The accuracy of measurement is often greater than that of DNA with a reliability of at least one million trillion.

The inherent 'fingerprint' is impossible to replicate and can be easily read using a low-cost portable laser scanner. This applies to almost all paper and plastic documents, including passports, credit cards and product packaging.

As well as the security implications, the technology can be applied to commercial applications, particularly packaging. For example, in the case of pharmaceuticals, up to 10% of all pharmaceuticals are counterfeits either containing little or no active ingredients. They can be easily identified with this new technology.

Inspection agencies and customs controls could use the technology to confirm the identity of imported goods and prevent counterfeit. This could potentially save millions through the avoidance of fraud and reduce the flow of funds to would-be terrorists.

The nearest comparisons to this technology are: barcodes, holograms and watermarks. The main difference is that these products are overt, and therefore more liable to abuse, whereas Professor Cowburn's is covert (invisible to the naked eye). Also Professor Cowburn's technology is resistant to damage and cannot be copied.

The LSA system has been brought to market by Ingenia Technology Limited, a London-based company which deploys nanoscience to create secure systems.

"Our findings open the way to a new and much simpler approach to authentication and tracking. This is a system so secure that not even the inventors would be able to crack it since there is no known manufacturing process for copying surface imperfections at the necessary level of precision.

"This system can be a powerful weapon against fraud, terrorism and identity theft," said Professor Cowburn.

Explaining the scientific background to his breakthrough, Professor Cowburn added:

"A unique 'fingerprint' is formed by microscopic surface imperfections on almost all paper documents, plastic cards and product packaging. That is what makes it possible to develop a much cheaper system to combat fraud. This inherent identity code is virtually impossible to modify. It can easily be read using a low-cost portable laser scanner.

"Since all non-reflective surfaces have naturally occurring roughness that is a source of physical randomness, our technology can provide in-built security for a range of objects such as passports, ID and credit cards and pharmaceutical packaging. It can be cheaper and more reliable than current methods such as holograms and security ink.

"Our research team used the optical phenomenon of 'laser speckle' to examine the fine structure of different surfaces using a focused laser.

"We tried the technique on a variety of materials including matt-finish plastic cards, identity cards and coated paperboard packaging. The result was a clear recognition between the samples. This continued even after they were subjected to rough handling, including submersion in water, scorching, scrubbing with an abrasive cleaning pad and being scribbled on with thick black marker.


"The beauty of this system is that we do not need to modify the item being protected in any way with tags, chips or ink - it is as if documents and packaging had their own unique DNA. This makes protection secret, simple to integrate into the manufacturing process and immune to attack.

"It can be applied retrospectively and is no threat to personal privacy."

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