Coloured polymer material to offer new defence against fraud?

Scientists from the University of Sheffield have developed a pigment free, intensely coloured polymer material that could provide new anti counterfeit devices on passports or banknotes due to its difficulty to copy.

According to Dr Andrew Parnell from the University's Department of Physics and Astronomy, the team created the colours using highly ordered polymer layers, produced using block copoylmers. By mixing the block copolymers together they were able to create any colour of the rainbow. "The polymer then automatically organised itself into a layered structure, causing optical effects similar to opals," said Dr Parnell.

Parnell believes the complexity of the chemistry involved in making the polymer means they will be very difficult for fraudsters to copy. "Our aim was to mimic the wonderful and funky coloured patterns found in nature, such as peacock feathers," he noted. "We now have a painter's palette of colours that we can choose from using just two polymers to do this. We think that these materials have huge potential to be used commercially."

Laura Hopperton

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