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Covert taggant nanoparticle inks - discovery, process and product development, and analysis for sustainability and efficiency

7 March 2012

Chiaki Crews

A current limitation in the global taggant industries is the inadequate number of inorganic phosphors that can be uniquely identified for authentication purposes. Thus, there is scope to enlarge the pool of available taggants by offering new and unique signature phosphors for brand protection and improving safety by avoiding the use of sub-standard counterfeit products. This project is primarily based in the Department of Chemistry, where inorganic phosphor nanoparticles will be synthesised using continuous hydrothermal flow synthesis (CHFS) then optically screened to select lead taggants for optimisation. Rare-earth-doped nanoparticles are of interest, in particular those which absorb and emit near infra-red light.

The next stage will be to scale up production using an existing facility, and to then develop printable inks in collaboration with SunChemical, one of the world's largest producers of printing inks, during a possible internship. In conjunction to this, models of the laboratory-scale and scaled up processes will be developed in the Department of Chemical Engineering. This will allow a quantitative evaluation of the impact of the choice of taggant to be carried out by assessing not only the economic costs of the process, but also the environmental impacts. These factors can be contrasted with the level of security offered by each taggant composition, and allow the identification of where trade-offs can be made.