Thwarting thieves with polymers and rainbows

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Like pickpocketing, counterfeiting money may soon be a crime of the past. Researchers at the University of Sheffield have created a "colorless pigment" that creates rainbows and prevents replicability for use on money, passports, and other stuff you don't want copied.


Here's how the magical fraud-fighting rainbows are created: pigment-free polymer materials are combined in highly ordered layers to make alloys called block copolymers. These alloyed copolymers display intense color because of their structure. This structure draws on the expanding field of biomimcry: Just as iridescent beetle shells and butterfly wings exhibit multiple colors from different angles, these lab-synthesized layers can mimic the entire range of the rainbow by mixing copolymers in various proportions.

Using high-powered x-rays, scientists probed their pearlescent constructs to determine how the ordered layers were structured, and refine the rainbow colors they were able to produce. Of the breakthrough, Dr. Andrew Parnell from the University of Sheffield's Department of Physics and Astronomy said:

Our aim was to mimic the wonderful and funky colored patterns found in nature, such as Peacock feathers. We now have a painter's palette of colours that we can choose from using just two polymers to do this. We think that these materials have huge potential to be used commercially.


In other words, ka-ching! Just, you know, for the scientists and not for the criminals. Unless they happen to have access to complex chemicals, laser facilities, and the original copolymer recipe.

All isn't lost for petty thievery, though: they'll still have money laundering.

via Physorg