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Small. 2016 Jul;12(28):3819-26. doi: 10.1002/smll.201601140. Epub 2016 Jun 3.

Lithographically Encrypted Inverse Opals for Anti-Counterfeiting Applications.

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Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (BK21+ Program), KAIST, Daejeon, 305-701, South Korea.
Biomass and Waste Energy Laboratory, Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER), Daejeon, 305-343, South Korea.


Colloidal photonic crystals possess inimitable optical properties of iridescent structural colors and unique spectral shape, which render them useful for security materials. This work reports a novel method to encrypt graphical and spectral codes in polymeric inverse opals to provide advanced security. To accomplish this, this study prepares lithographically featured micropatterns on the top surface of hydrophobic inverse opals, which serve as shadow masks against the surface modification of air cavities to achieve hydrophilicity. The resultant inverse opals allow rapid infiltration of aqueous solution into the hydrophilic cavities while retaining air in the hydrophobic cavities. Therefore, the structural color of inverse opals is regioselectively red-shifted, disclosing the encrypted graphical codes. The decoded inverse opals also deliver unique reflectance spectral codes originated from two distinct regions. The combinatorial code composed of graphical and optical codes is revealed only when the aqueous solution agreed in advance is used for decoding. In addition, the encrypted inverse opals are chemically stable, providing invariant codes with high reproducibility. In addition, high mechanical stability enables the transfer of the films onto any surfaces. This novel encryption technology will provide a new opportunity in a wide range of security applications.


anti-counterfeiting; colloidal crystals; encryption; inverse opals; selective infiltration


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