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The E-Sylum (7/7/2013)

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Here's an interesting article from National Geographic about the use of a technique learned from butterflies to help prevent counterfeiting. -Editor

Blue-Morpho-butterfly For more than a decade, I’ve been fascinated by biomimicry, the way engineers take cues from animals to make airplanes fly faster or submarines glide more efficiently.

In Vancouver, British Columbia, we found one of the most advanced biomimicry yet, with some seriously money-saving ways it can be used.

Every year in the U.S., about $270 million in counterfeit cash is seized by the government. That’s a tiny fraction of the $300 billion in fake money believed to circulate domestically each year. But it’s a growing problem. As scanning and printing technology advance, officials with the U.S. Secret Service say the potential for counterfeiting is rising, especially for big denominations like $50 and $100 bills. Governments abroad are also concerned; they often have less advanced money-printing techniques and less regulation over fake bills.

Enter the Blue Morpho butterfly: a species with unique qualities that might hold the clue for fighting counterfeiting.

The Morpho has a stunning metallic blue color, but it’s not made from the usual ways colors are formed in nature, through pigments or dyes. Instead its color comes from structural patterns—tiny patterns of microscopic holes that reflect blue light to our eyes.

We stopped in at NanoTech Security, a company trying to recreate those microscopic hole patterns to use on currency of the future. Instead of printing images with ink on paper, the idea is to press a pattern of tiny holes that would reflect a certain pattern. It would be virtually impossible to counterfeit without some advanced equipment and a clean room with fewer than 100 parts per million of floating particulates (most public places have more than one million parts per million).

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Over two centuries aftr Ben Franklin used nature printing to combat counterfeiters of colonial currency, here we are in the 21st century mimicking butterflies for the same purpose. The technology gets fancier and fancier, but the human needs remain the same. -Editor

To read the complete article, see: The Butterfly Effect: How Blue Morpho Wings Could Stop Counterfeiting (

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