Show me the money! Is there a clear window? Then it’s a polymer banknote.
Polymer banknotes, pioneered in Australia in 1988, were developed as a protective measure against counterfeit fraud. Currently there are 77 designs used in 23 countries, including Mexico and Canada, while the U.K. is currently considering polymer banknotes. The majority of polymer banknotes in the world are printed on polypropylene banknote substrate Guardian®, produced by Innovia Security with divisions in Australia, Mexico, and China.
The polymer substrate contains several film layers. The base clear film (Clarity®C) is a bi-axially oriented polypropylene, produced using unique patented technology, with even tensile strength horizontally and laterally within the film. Polymer films with characteristics similar to Clarity’s are not available commercially, making banknotes counterfeit-resistant. Unique optical and structural characteristics can be authenticated using a special device (Verus®).
To make a banknote, the clear base film is partially opacified with multiple layers of specialized coatings and inks, applied to the front and back of the film, producing a range of integrated security features. Advanced designs are incorporated through screen-printing, foil application, letterpress, and overcoating printing.
The Guardian® banknote includes mind-blowing security features:
Guardian® is a proven platform for the application of trusted features such as micro-printing, intaglio tactile features, intricate offset background patterns, see-through registration, IR features, magnetic features, visible and invisible fluorescent and phosphorescent features, color changing inks and optically variable elements. The effectiveness of some of these processes is enhanced when printed on Guardian® due to the synergies offered by the smooth flat surface and the transparent windows with security print processes.
The clear window is one of the most distinctive design elements and traditional feature of polymer substrate technology. The window includes “dynamic optically variable devices” or holographic foils. The newest “below the surface” security features include LATITUDE® (embossed foil effect feature, which can be 3D or kinetic) and “stealth elements” ECLIPSE® and D-CODE™.
ECLIPSE is a transmission optically variable device based on light diffraction that reveals a hidden image when looking through the transparent window at a point light source. A product of nanotechnology, D-CODE is an embedded security feature invisible to the naked eye, identifiable by the bank D-CODE detection device.
Banknote polymer science research and development never stops, with new features being added and existing ones being updated. Nanoelectronics may be next. The article “Nanotechnology Makes Electronic Security Features Possible” in The Biannual Journal of Guardian, presented at Currency Conference 2013 in Athens, explains:
Innovia Security’s R&D division has been working in the micro and nano-space for many years, but recent advances in the field have meant that the three-dimensional space that Guardian substrate provides has now grown significantly larger as a medium with which to host features designed using nanotechnology [...] In working with nano-particles, research work has pursued the path of optical effects produced via printing. The use of nano-particles in ink has enabled the printing of specialised effects which is very much an exploration based on the random distribution of these particles through a liquid medium. Control of nano-structures, however, enables the management of specific relief structures that create predetermined and reliable optical effects.
In addition to being secure, polymer banknotes appear to be cleaner. The Guardian® banknotes have been shown to carry four times less bacteria than cotton-paper banknotes, due to their smooth and water-resistant surface. The study was performed in 2010 using 1,280 banknotes in 10 countries.
The Guardian® banknotes are stain-resistant and remarkably strong, easily withstanding not only the washing machine, but also boiling water or 100°C dry heat. (click for video). They can be used in ATMs. The polymer money also is environmentally friendly. According to a life-cycle assessment of polymer banknotes performed by the Bank of Canada:
The study examined everything from the impact of growing cotton for bank note paper and of producing the raw material for polymer, through to the destruction and disposal of worn bank notes. The study found that polymer bank notes show benefits over paper notes for all the main phases of the life cycle, including manufacturing and distribution. Since polymer notes will last at least 2.5 times longer than paper notes, fewer polymer notes will have to be manufactured and distributed over the life of the series. The study examined nine internationally recognized categories for life-cycle impact assessment, including global warming potential and primary energy demands. In all categories, polymer shows improvements ranging from a 29 per cent to a 60 per cent reduction in environmental impact.
The Bank of England has been conducting a public consultation program to decide whether to print its next banknotes on polymer. The decision will be announced this month. Will the U.S.A. be next?
Source: Innovia Security is the supplier of Guardian®, innoviasecurity.com
Source: Security Features Reference Guide, Edition May 2, 2013, innoviasecurity.com
Source: Dirty Money: An Investigation into the Hygiene Status of Some of the World’s Currencies as Obtained from Food Outlets, F. Vriesekoop et al., Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, Volume 7, Number 12, 2010, DOI: 10.1089/fpd2010.0606
Source: Life-Cycle Assessment, bankofcanada.ca
Source: Understanding Polymer Banknotes, bankofengland.co.uk
Image by Evan Bench (austinevan)
Video Innovia Security, Guardian – 25 Years of Innovation, by Creativa Web Videos, youtube