Keeping It Real: The Science of Authenticity
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – except when it’s substandard milk spiked with melamine that sickens babies, or the false amber that affects the economy of a region in Mexico, or adulterated fuels that cause governments to lose tax revenues and help to finance criminal enterprises.
The cost of such counterfeit products is staggering – nearly $2 trillion worldwide in 2015, according to the International Chamber of Commerce. But science is helping product researchers, authenticators and regulators to fight back, with spectroscopy and optical sensing technologies among the valuable tools for product authentication, identification and verification.
Anti-Counterfeiting Measures using Spectroscopy
Spectroscopy can’t eradicate the primary motivators of counterfeiting – greed and self-interest – but it can help to deter the flow of deceptive and illegal practices affecting items including documentation, food and beverages, drugs and medications, gemstones and luxury goods, and fuels such as gasoline and diesel.
Here is just a sampling of techniques and anti-counterfeiting applications enabled by UV-Vis, NIR and Raman spectroscopy:
||Techniques||Best for||Sample Applications|
||UV-Vis-Shortwave NIR absorbance, reflectance and transmission||Authentication of adulterated products, substitutions and contaminants||Authentication of spirits|
|Qualification of color and other brand characteristics|
|Identification of high-value edible oils by spectral characteristics|
|Surface-enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS)||High-sensitivity detection of trace levels of additives and contaminants||Detection of trace levels of contaminants including melamine, fungicides and pesticides|
||Fluorescence, Raman, SERS||High-sensitivity detection of covert fuel markers||Authentication of fuels at point of origin|
|Determination of fuel grade and quality|
||Raman, SERS||Detection of drugs in impaired drivers and emergency room patients||Rapid, low-cost testing for deliberate and unintentional drug intoxication|
||Best for||Sample Applications|
||Fluorescence, photoluminescence, Raman||Discriminating natural stones from artificial||Determining the origin of amber and other gems|
|Detecting synthetic diamonds, emeralds and rubies|
|Identifying cultured freshwater pearls|
||Fluorescence, , UV-Vis reflectance, SERS, luminescence||Detection of fluorescent inks and markers to determine authenticity||Authenticating banknotes and other currencies|
|Identifying UV-sensitive inks and markers|
|Determining age and origin of documents|
||Fluorescence, UV-Vis reflectance, Raman, SERS, LIBS||Determination of pigment color and composition||Examination of pigments, methods and materials in paintings, frescoes and other artworks|