Banknote security set to increase through new optical features

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Nanotech Security has announced that it will acquire Fortress Optical Features, a producer of optical thin-films (OTF) used as security threads in the banknotes of several currencies, for up to $17.5 million. Following the transaction due to close in September, Nanotech will integrate its KolourOptik nanotechnology into Fortress’ existing OTF product line, which is expected to significantly increase the security of banknotes.

Counterfeit banknotes are a huge concern for banks, so they are constantly searching for new ways to ensure currencies cannot be duplicated. Not only are advanced vision systems used to inspect printed money, but security features, such as watermarks or microlettering, are processed into the banknotes to prevent counterfeiting.

Under the new transaction, Nanotech anticipates that it can increase the security of banknotes by integrating its KolourOptik technology into Fortress Optical Features' OTF product line, whereby KolourOptik images will act as an additional feature to the OTF threads.

‘By layering our KolourOptik nanotechnology onto Fortress Optical Features’ security threads which are currently used in numerous currencies, we will create a next-generation product for the banknote industry,’ said Doug Blakeway, president and CEO of Nanotech.

The KolourOptik technology was inspired by the unique optical properties of the Blue Morpho butterfly, and is used to authenticate security and branding images through a unique interaction of natural light with a grid of nano-sized holes.

It was first developed by researchers from Simon Fraser University in Canada. Nanotech Security then built on this ‘butterfly effect’ concept by developing new nanostructures that produce colour images which, when illuminated, appear similar to an LED-display. The nanotechnology is one of the first that can be seamlessly integrated into a commercial manufacturing process.

To date, Fortress Optical Features’ technology has been used in 11 international currencies. The optically variable thin films consist of a unique combination of layered or ‘stacked’ thin film materials to produce a predictable colour replay. Additional features of the film include differing optical features or colours which appear when the banknote is tilted. The material was developed by the Bank of Canada in coordination with the National Research Council of Canada.

Fortress Optical Features recently invested $4.2 million to renovate its existing production facility and added $1.0 million in new equipment over the past few years. As part of the transaction, Nanotech will acquire Fortress Optical Features’ production facility and high technology OTF production equipment.

In the future, it is anticipated that the technology could be expanded into other market sectors, explained Blakeway: ‘The transaction will expand Nanotech’s current IP portfolio for optical security features to include Fortress Optical Features’ 14 current patent applications which should enhance our ability to compete in other commercial spaces such as passports as well as product branding and authentication.’


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Further Information

Fortress Paper

Nanotech Security

Simon Fraser University