Tracking Plastic Packaging

Ampacet has developed molecular tags for plastics
Ampacet has developed molecular tags for plastics.

A company has come up with a way to let original equipment manufacturers, brand owners, and others keep their eyes at all times on their products. The aim is to help manufacturers and retailers deal with product security, counterfeiting, liability, and other issues by keeping track of unique signatures in plastic packaging.

Ampacet Corp. has developed a new type of masterbatch that is chockful of molecular tracers. A masterbatch is a solid plastic, rubber, or elastomeric substance in which pigments are nicely dispersed at high concentrations. The substance is compatible with the plastic with which it will be blended during manufacturing to give the final plastic product the color from the masterbatch.

As reported in Plastics Today, Ampacet goes one step further with the masterbatch. The company loads molecular tracers as well as the pigment into the masterbatch so that the masterbatch becomes essentially a tracking device molded into a plastic product, such as rigid or flexible packaging.

Ampacet refused to reveal the kinds of molecular tracers it was using, but, as the article explains:

Such tracers, previously used primarily with high-value or controlled products such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices, currency, agricultural products and explosives, now are being used more frequently for a variety of consumer and industrial products to verify brand ownership, manufacturers’ lots and tamper evidence.

The type, ratios, and concentrations of the molecular tracers in these special masterbatches can be tweaked to give each masterbatch a unique signal that can be measured by visual, audible, or standard laboratory analytical tools. The tracers can be based on UV or infrared radiation, ferromagnetism, and other detection systems. The unique signal of each plastic product can act as a special “product fingerprint.”

A press release by the company says:

Ampacet works with manufacturers to tailor AmpaTraceâ„¢ molecular signatures to their packaging needs. The company also provides analytical services to positively identify the molecular tracer in a package at the store or plant level, if needed. Depending on the complexity of security required, AmpaTrace technologies provide low cost options to high security optimization.

Source: “Track plastics packaging with tracer-loaded masterbatch,” Plastics Today, 06/03/11
Image of the Ampacet Corp. logo is used under Fair Use: Reporting.


Rajendrani "Raj" Mukhopadhyay is a science writer and editor who contributes news stories and feature articles on scientific advances to a variety of magazines. Raj holds Ph.D. in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University.