Opalux, Inc., another Canadian company with an anti-counterfeiting strategy

On the heels (more or less) of my Jan. 17, 2011 posting about the Simon Fraser University-related start-up company, Nanotech Security, and its anti-counterfeiting technology based on the Morpho butterfly, I came across an article about a University of Toronto-related company, Oplaux, and its anti-counterfeiting technology which is based on opals and, again, the Morpho butterfly.  The Canada Foundation for Innovation article provides some details in the Fall/Winter 2009 issue of its Innovation Canada online magazine,

Inspired by the iridescent colours found in nature, such as butterfly wings, researchers at Opalux, a University of Toronto spin-off company, are recreating nature’s colours using nanotechnology. The “photonic colour” product that results can be switched on and off, offering applications in currency dyes and perishable food packaging. (p. 3)

The company is focused on more than anti-counterfeiting measures (as opposed to Nanotech Security) and food packaging, there’s also work being done on,

… a rechargeable battery whose changing surface colour indicates how much charge the battery currently holds and how much rechargeable life remains? (p. 3)

Opalux, derives its name and inspiration from opals (as well as, the Morpho butterfly mentioned previously). André Arsenault, one of Opalux’s co-founders and Chief Technology Officer, synthesized work from two researchers (Geoffrey Ozin and Ian Manners) at the University of Toronto to develop the notion of a ‘tunable and opal-like crystal’,

Ozin’s research involved the creation of synthetic nanostructures that, when exposed to light, mimic the visual qualities of an opal, the mineral renowned for its ability to appear as all colours of the rainbow. Manners was looking into producing artificial materials, particularly an iron-based polymer that could carry an electrical charge. For his thesis, Arsenault combined the two concepts to create a “tunable” opal-like crystal — a material in which you could control extremely rapid colour changes.

If you are interested in Opalux, the website is here. By contrast here’s a description of the work done by the researchers and nascent entrpreneurs at Simon Fraser University (SFU), from the Jan. 17, 2011 news release,

Imagine a hole so small that air can’t go through it, or a hole so small it can trap a single wavelength of light. Nanotech Security Corp., with the help of Simon Fraser University researchers, is using this type of nano-technology – 1,500 times thinner than a human hair and first of its kind in the world – to create unique anti-counterfeiting security features.

Landrock and Kaminska [Chris Landrock and Bozena Kaminska, SFU researchers) both continue their work as part of Nanotech’s scientific team. The company’s Nano-Optic Technology for Enhanced Security (NOtES) product stems from an idea originating in the purest form of nature – insects using colorful markings to identify themselves.

How this works is microscopic gratings composed of nanostructures interact with light to produce the shimmering iridescence seen on the Costa Rican morpho butterfly. The nanostructures act to reflect and refract light waves to produce the morpho’s signature blue wings and absorb other unwanted light.

There you have it, two different approaches to anti-counterfeiting and the beginnings of a possible case study about innovation in Canada.

8 thoughts on “Opalux, Inc., another Canadian company with an anti-counterfeiting strategy

  1. JEL

    I find both companies to have very good product on hand that would help fight counterfeit or fraud problem facing the world. I for a printing manufacturer trying to implement these technologies in flexo process. Although it is not their at the present time I believe if there is enough support and interest I think it would be great for the label packaging industry

  2. Pingback: UK team works on anti-counterfeiting using Morpho butterfly and jewel beetles as inspiration « FrogHeart

  3. Tania Dey

    I guess it’s Clint Landrock (not Chris!). Although I personally do not know any of them, it’s good to see that the same idea on which I have recently worked, is being commercialized. In fact my recent talk in the Photonics North 2010 conference at Niagara Falls, Ontario was based on this i.e. morpho butterfly and opal inspired self-assembled photonic crystals. Hope these Canadian companies will open up job opportunities for people like us.

    Self-citation:
    (1) Tania Dey “Polymeric Nanocomposites as Photonic Sensors” Proceedings of SPIE – Photonics North 2010 (book chapter) Volume 7750, p. 77500P, (2010) Edited by: Henry P. Schriemer and Rafael N. Kleiman, ISBN: 9780819482419
    (2) Tania Dey “Colloidal Crystalline Array of Hydrogel-coated Silica Nanoparticles: effect of Temperature and Core Size on Photonic Properties” Journal of Sol-Gel Science and Technology Vol. 57, Iss. 2, p. 132-141, (2011)

  4. admin

    Hi JEL! Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. I will be curious to see how quickly these companies are able to bring anti-counterfeiting products to market. Good luck with bringing these technologies to the flexo process. Cheers, Maryse

  5. admin

    Hi Tania! Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Thanks too for the citations to your papers. I’m adding my hopes to yours that these Canadian companies do open up job opportunities. Cheers, Maryse

  6. Pingback: Commercializing nanotechnology talk at Simon Fraser University in downtown Vancouver (Canada) « FrogHeart

  7. Pingback: A patent for Nanotech Security Corp « FrogHeart

  8. Pingback: Cambridge University wants to take its flexible opals to market « FrogHeart

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