Money based on butterfly colors could prevent bank fraud

British scientists have figured out how to create copies of the colorful microscopic structures found in butterflies' wings. Researchers hope this technology could help encrypt optical signatures on money.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

Bank fraud might soon be a crime of the past thanks to butterfly wings. Using the wing scales of Papilio blumei for inspiration,British researchers have created microstructures that mimic the way light reflects off of butterflies.

Butterflies don't have pigments like our skin does. Instead, the wings of butterflies look like "the inside of an egg carton" — which allows it to shine light in a peculiar way.

University of Cambridge researchers created identical copies of the butterfly-like scale structures using nanofabrication techniques.

While the colors are pretty, the complex reflections also help the insects survive. Butterflies have evolved this brilliant optical design so they can hide from predators, but still remain visible to nearby butterflies.

In the future, if researchers can mimic the optical structures of butterflies and print them onto bank notes, security printing would be so much smarter. Mathias Kolle of the University of Cambridge said in a statement:

"These artificial structures could be used to encrypt information in optical signatures on banknotes or other valuable items to protect them against forgery. We still need to refine our system but in future we could see structures based on butterflies wings shining from a £10 note or even our passports," he says.

If the butterfly-like structure ever makes its way into the banking system, it would be harder for forgers to use fake money or commit credit card fraud.

Credit: Mathias Kolle, University of Cambridge

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards