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Posted: Nov 06, 2012

Anti-counterfeiting with DNA nanotechnology

(Nanowerk Application Note) A study by the OECD (pdf) concluded that international trade in counterfeit and pirated goods could have accounted for up to USD 250 billion in 2007. The OECD estimates that the share of counterfeit and pirated goods in world trade is close to 2%. And these figures do not even include domestically produced and consumed products, or non-tangible pirated digital products. Industry segments for which counterfeits are a significant problem include pharmaceuticals, airplane parts, auto parts, and designer clothing.
Recent developments in nanotechnology have enabled significant improvement in the field of anti-counterfeiting measures. One company for instance is working on fluorescent nanostructures to improve banknote security; another one has developed DNA tags for deposition on nanoelectronics wafers and computer chips to ensure the integrity and security of processed wafers.
DNA-based protection technologies are especially suitable for anti-counterfeiting measures. Genuine-ID, a Swiss start-up company, has developed state-of-the-art security products based on DNA code which they call the Genuine-ID product passport.
Here is how it works:
The DNA molecules are added a products raw material during the production process. Only 1 ppm (one part per million) is required to uniquely mark the material. That is one gram per one ton of raw material. Therefore there material properties remain unchanged. No extra production steps are required.
adding DNA security code
Image: Genuine-ID
The DNA molecules are encapsulated in a silicon dioxide microparticle in order to protect them from the harsh conditions during production and the product life cycle. These microparticles are nothing other than very small glass balls with a diameter of about 100 nm.
The DNA molecular structure can be read as a mathematical code based on the four DNA molecules – Adenine (A), Cytosine (C), Guanine (G), and Thymine (T). So a DNA code, in contrast to the binary code used in IT security, is a combination of the letters A, C, G and T. A 10-digit code could look like this: C-G-A-C-T-T-G-A-C-A
In the case of the Genuine-ID product passport, a 64-digit code-length is used. The number of possible combinations is therefore 4x4x4....x4 and that 64 times. Mathematically that is written as: 464 = 3.4E38. That is 34 followed by 37 zeroes.
A copy of every unique DNA code that is added to a product – the so called DNA primer – is kept as a sample in a safe deposit at a Swiss bank. For security reasons, no electronic version of the DNA-sequence is stored.
In the case of a sample test inquiry, a very small probe (1 mg) is taken from the product and paired with the original DNA primer for a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. Only when the DNA code from the two samples are a perfect match will the test result be positive.
The analysis lasts about 2 hours. Many probes can be analyzed simultaneously. The PCR analysis is a proven and established DNA analysis method which is used for blood tests (HIV-test, etc.) and paternity tests. The result is unique and 100% certain.
Depending on the application, there are three variations of DNA coding available from Genuine-ID:
Genuine-ID Seal: Labels or seals, starting from very low quantities, include unique and traceable Genuine-ID coding. This is the quick and easy way to stamp a product with the unique Genuine-ID product passport. The label can be added to any product (stitched or glued on textiles) as guarantee of authenticity and quality.
Genuine-ID polymers: Additive for thermoplastic processing. Genuine-ID is ready compounded in thermoplastic polymers (PCC; LD-PE). No additional processing steps are needed. Genuine-ID polymers is the ultimate application of the Genuine-ID material passport. The material itself is uniquely marked. No barcodes holograms, labels or other add-on's are needed. The code is stored everywhere in the material.
The Genuine-ID polymer is mixed into the material as a standard additive. Very low quantities are needed. Only 0.1 ppm (100 milligram per ton) of particles are required to mark the material sufficiently.
Genuine-ID particles: Any liquid or cream can be marked with Genuine-ID particles. Genuine-ID particles can be mixed into liquids, gels, creams and other fluids by the customer. The particles are completely invisible and do not change the properties or functionality of the liquid. Only tiny amounts of particles are required for identification (0.1 1 ppm). The base material of Genuine-ID particles (SiO2) is approved as food additive E551 (up to 10 grams per kilo) and is used as a thickener in the food industry. The silica is not resorbed by the organism and egested unchanged.
By . Michael is author of two books by the Royal Society of Chemistry: Nano-Society: Pushing the Boundaries of Technology (RSC Nanoscience & Nanotechnology) and Nanotechnology: The Future is Tiny. Copyright © Nanowerk

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