The war on counterfeit products is fought using highly detailed printing, watermarks, and even holograms on packaging, but the latest weapon will also include your breath. Researchers at the University of Michigan and in South Korea have developed a thin film featuring invisible images and features only revealed when blasted with humid air, made using a sophisticated manufacturing process that's hard to duplicate.
Designed to help combat counterfeit drugs, which harm over 700,000 people every year, the new film—made from a specially developed blend of polyurethane and an adhesive—is covered in microscopic pillars on the surface which serve to completely hide images or words printed on the underside of the material. But when you breathe on it, those tiny pillars temporarily trap moisture, which results in the secret image being revealed.
The machinery needed to create the film is incredibly sophisticated—and expensive—which will make it very difficult for counterfeiters to reproduce. But once a template has been created, labels can be mass-produced on the cheap, making this a financially viable way for drug manufacturers to verify their products.
And there's no reason this anti-counterfeiting measure has to only be used for drug packaging. When was the last time you bought a product that wasn't wrapped in some kind of plastic? One day you might be able to verify the authenticity of everything from Blu-ray discs, to electronics, to even currency, with a few deep breaths. [University of Michigan]