Monash's $2.5m nanotech tool to help prevent banknote fraud

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Monash's $2.5m nanotech tool to help prevent banknote fraud

Very small etchings could save big bucks.

A multi-million dollar nanotechnology tool to be launched in Melbourne next March could yield new anti-counterfeiting technology.

Designed to accurately etch data on nanoscale surfaces, the electron-beam lithography (EBL) tool will be the first of its kind in Australia.

It will be housed in Monash University's upcoming Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication (MCN), which will pay 1.5 million Euros (AUD$2.5m) for the machine and an additional estimated $30,000 per year for related utilities.

In EBL, a beam of electrons is scanned across a film. The beam etches a desired pattern onto the film, which can then be transferred onto other materials.

Scientists and engineers from across the nation are expected to use the EBL tool for developing new banknote fraud prevention technologies, microtexturing surfaces, and manufacturing x-ray optical elements.

One example of EBL-related anti-counterfeit technology is Exelgram, which was developed by CSIRO in the 1990s and has been used in Hungrarian, Estonian and New Zealand bank notes, Ukranian visas and American Express travellers' cheques.

Although they appear similar to holograms, Exelgrams are more sophisticated. Their effect cannot be achieved using industrially available optical devices.

Exelgrams use EBL to create arrays of mirrors that are tens of microns wide. The mirrors are arranged on a material's surface and reflect light to form images that change as the material moves.

Monash researcher Matteo Altissimo told iTnews that there have been discussions about using the tool for improving banknote fraud prevention, but could not name the researchers or organisations involved due to non-disclosure agreements.

"The plan is to use it [the EBL tool] for research and development," he said.

"We will try implementing different and novel designs. Also, given the intrinsic ability of the tool to write extremely fine structures, we will try to include this in the [banknote fraud prevention] devices."

MCN's EBL tool is manufactured by Vistec Electron Beam Lithography Group and currently is being assembled at Vistec's factory in Albany, U.S.

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