Breathing on Anti-Counterfeit Drug Labels Reveal Hidden Images
Medicine bottles of the future could have secret images — such as the iconic face of Marilyn Monroe — hidden on their clear plastic labels that appear when you breathe on them.
Researchers at the University of Michigan are developing a way to fight off drug counterfeiting — which kills more than 700,000 people each year, according to a 2009 report — with high-tech labels that change when you breathe on them.
Although less than 1% of the U.S. pharmaceutical market is said to have counterfeit drugs, fake or toxic drugs are a major issue in developing countries. According to the university, 30% of drugs in these areas are counterfeit.
In response, researchers are looking for a way to fight counterfeiters with sophisticated drug labels to cut down on this dangerous trend.
The university has created a template for labels with small indentations that are about 500 times smaller than the width of a human hair. The ridges appear (and create an image-like effect) when the indentations capture moisture or fog from breath, making it easy for buyers to see if thepackaging is a fake.
“The concept started when I noticed that traditional holography-based security tags are widely used on counterfeit bags and shoes,” Nicholas Kotov, professor of engineering who worked on the project, told Mashable. “These tags can be very easily printed, and a new technology was clearly needed to label authentic items.”
The image is created by nanoscale layers made using special layer-by-layer technology on nanopillars: “This anti-counterfeit technology is simple to use but difficult to replicate,” he said. “The buyers of authentic items can identify authenticity on site and immediately. The images can also be integrated in the design of the shoes or other items.”
The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program and DARPA’s Small Business Technology Transfer program. The university hopes to patent the technology and then bring it to the pharmaceutical market.
“Besides the economic losses associated with counterfeit drugs, people can die due to their use,” Kotov said. “There are many cases when pricey anti-cancer chemotherapy drugs are counterfeited by sugar pills too. Overall, it’s an important advancement for the industry and cutting down on the spread of counterfeit drugs.”