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Forgery-Foiling Butterflies

June 28, 2010

The colors that make up some butterfly wings could help foil forgery.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Butterfly-inspired security‚ĶI’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

With the advent of the color copier, it’s gotten easier over the years for counterfeiters to forge currency and other documents. Now, scientists are turning to nature to combat such crimes. Cambridge physicist Ulli Steiner says that the structure of some butterflies’ wings make them look blue to potential mates, but invisible to predators.

ULLI STEINER (University of Cambridge):
We decided to look if we can make a surface that has the same optical effect as this butterfly.

HIRSHON:
He and his colleagues have improved upon the butterflies’ structure.

STEINER:
It looks bright red if you look straight at it, and if you tilt the sample, you’ll get a drastic color change from red to blue. One could envisage a security label that is very easily discernible by virtually everyone, you just look at it and say oh, yeah, this is the real thing as opposed to a forgery.

HIRSHON:
I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.