Terahertz Tags to Spot Product Tampering

Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created next-generation anti-counterfeiting tags harnessing terahertz waves that can remotely detect tampering or removal attempts from product packaging due to their novel tamper-proof adhesive design with embedded micro-particles.
Compared to lower radio frequencies, terahertz radiation is strongly absorbed by the gases of the atmosphere, and in air most of the energy is attenuated within a few meters, so it is not practical for long distance terrestrial radio communication.
Terahertz radiation is emitted as part of the black-body radiation from anything with a temperature greater than about 2 kelvins.

Limitations in Existing Methods

While RFID tags help track legitimate products, they remain prone to duplication thereby limiting anti-counterfeit applications. Cost and scaling challenges exist too for ubiquitous deployment over each item. Compared to RFIDs, terahertz tags proposed by MIT can transmit data at much higher rates over longer distances enabling mass remote scanning.

Innovative Tamper-Proof Glue

The breakthrough lies in incorporating microscopic conducting metal pieces within adhesive sticker resin binding tags. Any tampering or removal disturbs particle distribution altering terahertz wave reflections signature which serves as tamper evidence.

How it Improves Security

The disturbed terahertz scattering response from dislodged micro-particles provides remote tamper detection capability when tag is illicitly removed or package seal compromised which existing anti-counterfeit labels lacked.

Reduced Costs and Scalability

Built with inexpensive materials using streamlined fabrication processes, the tags can be rapidly mass produced at fraction of costs promising widespread adoption from pharmaceuticals to luxury items vulnerable to counterfeiting.
The design innovation around terahertz ID stickers makes near real-time invisible tracking of products viable to expose grey market risks, advancing supply chain transparency.

What are Terahertz Waves?

Terahertz band falls between microwave and infra-red regions in electromagnetic spectrum.

Terahertz radiation is emitted as part of the black-body radiation from anything with a temperature greater than about 2 kelvins.
Viable artificial sources of terahertz radiation are gyrotron, backward wave oscillator, organic gas far infrared laser, Schottky diode multipliers, varactor multipliers, quantum cascade laser, free electron laser, synchrotron light sources, photo-mixing sources among others.

In 2013, researchers developed a method to create a graphene antenna: an antenna that would be shaped into graphene strips. Such an antenna could be used to emit radio waves in the terahertz frequency range.


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