Fluorescent inks may foil counterfeiters

A new study could provide a futuristic solution to cosmetics counterfeiting

According to the International Chamber of Commerce, the global trade in forged or fake goods currently accounts for more than half of counterfeiting and piracy, and could grow to as much as $960 billion by 2015. A large part of this trade involves luxury goods and cosmetics.

Scientists at Northwestern University in the United States have invented sophisticated fluorescent inks that could be the key to combating this type of piracy. The inks, which can only be seen under ultraviolet light, can be printed with an inkjet printer and the barcodes stamped onto many different types of goods. This stamp can be in single colors or multicolor gradients.

The key to the new inks is that they provide a level of complexity not seen before, as the color depends on the interaction and quantity of three different ingredient molecules. A very small change in the composition of the ingredients results in a significant color change, allowing for a near infinite number of options. Even the creator of a barcode in these fluorescent inks would not be able to reverse engineer the process without a detailed knowledge of the encryption settings.

The authentication method provides an additional layer of protection: Wet authentication wipes cause the colors to change under UV light, so that even if the counterfeiters could reproduce the initial color, they would find it impossible to reproduce the color-changing process of authentication.