Nanotech Security stumps counterfeiters with next-level holograms

Inspired by butterfly wings

A blue morpho butterfly, whose iridescent wings inspired Nanotech Security's “KolourOptik” technology (iStock)

A blue morpho butterfly, whose iridescent wings inspired Nanotech Security’s “KolourOptik” technology (iStock)

First introduced in the 1980s, holograms have become popular anti-counterfeiting measures—you’ll find them on Canada’s new polymer banknotes, Cuban cigars and Canada Goose jackets. The problem is that polymer films, laser equipment and other technology required to produce holograms are also readily available, allowing counterfeiters to make convincing facsimiles.To foil them, the holographic industry must constantly devise new visual effects and countermeasures.

Vancouver-based Nanotech Security Corp. took a different tack by spending more than $4 million creating a completely new technology it says was inspired by the iridescent wings of the blue morpho butterfly. Dubbed KolourOptik, it involves punching arrays of holes between 50 and 100 nanometers wide into a wide variety of surfaces. The results resemble holograms, but behave differently. Holograms produce the familiar “rainbow effect” as the viewing angle changes, for example. Nanotech’s colours turn on and off. The colours are more vivid, but when held to light they disappear. Nanotech is initially targeting banknote printers; its first commercial customer was the TED conference, whose tickets to this year’s conference in Vancouver integrated KolourOptik patches.

Animated gif showing the optical properties of NanoTech Security holograms

TED’s 2014 badges sport this patch manufactured by NanoTech Security. It appears similar to a hologram but is much more complex at the nanoscale level, making counterfeiting much more difficult. (NanoTech Security)