Combining Blockchain and Nanotechnology to Fight Criminal Counterfeiters and Build Brand Trust


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Say the word “blockchain” to businesspeople and you’re likely to be met with either a “never heard of it” or an “it’s also called bitcoin isn’t it?” response. These kinds of comments are probably well known to those involved in nanotechnology. The reality is that neither of these transformational technologies are yet widely understood, and real-world applications are only now emerging to address business opportunities.

While blockchain is perhaps best known as the technology that underpins the (somewhat notorious) cryptocurrency called bitcoin, it can be applied to many different business areas like finance, healthcare, identity and supply chain. Major IT companies, such as IBM, Microsoft, SAP and Oracle, have invested big in making blockchain usable by business enterprises for these applications, and more.

In this article, we’ll highlight how the combination of blockchain and nanotechnology can be applied to a particularly challenging aspect of supply chain management, namely the huge global criminal marketplace in counterfeit goods, which hurts business profits, impacts brand trust and undermines customer relationships.

First, a quick primer on blockchain. A blockchain is a type of database that is tamper proof. Data stored in a blockchain cannot be changed (the technical term is immutable), it can be shared among multiple users, and significantly the composition of the data stored is agreed to by multiple users of the blockchain before it can be stored (this process is known as consensus). In short, blockchains are an incredibly secure way to keep information safe and consistent among multiple participants in a business network.

blockchain-share 2READ MORE: How Blockchain Technology Could Be The Primary Key To Cybersecurity

Next, a few words about the shadowy world of counterfeit goods. Sadly, it’s a big business for criminals. Recent industry statistics suggest counterfeiting is a $1.8 Trillion endeavor that spans the globe. Just about every product is a target for counterfeiters – luxury fashion accessories, wine, auto parts, pharmaceuticals, sports apparel and consumer electronics are common examples – and this activity impacts businesses and their brands both financially and reputationally and can represent a significant safety risk for consumers.

So how is the combination of blockchain and nanotechnology being leveraged to fight the counterfeiters?

At Quantum Materials Corp. we have developed nanomaterials called quantum dots over the past decade. Quantum dots are nanoscale semiconductor particles that possess notable and extremely useful optical and electrical properties. They measure from 10 to 100 atoms in size (approximately 10,000 dots would fit across the diameter of a human hair) and they generate light when energy is applied to them or generate energy when light is applied.

QMC creates in commercial quantities quantum dots that can be finely tuned to emit predetermined wavelengths of light (in both the visible and non-visible spectrums) with the ability to create billions of unique optical signatures. Moreover, they are excitable by numerous excitation energy sources.

Our quantum dots can be incorporated into almost any physical item at time of manufacture, and then provide a unique light signature that establishes absolute product identity. These identities are impossible to copy or clone so that products enhanced by them can be verified as being genuine items and not counterfeits.

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Read About Another New Quantum Dot Security Company Dotz Nano ~ Tag – Trace – Verify

Dotz is a technology leader, specializing in the development and marketing of novel advanced carbon-based materials used for tracing, anti-counterfeiting and product-liability solutions. Our unique products: ValiDotz ™, Fluorensic™, and BioDotz™ can be imbedded into plastics, fuels, lubricants, chemicals, and even Cannabis  plants to create product specific codes and trace for origin Twitter Icon 042616.jpg Follow Dotz Nano on Twitter

When the quantum dot signature of a product is scanned (via a hand-held scanner or an app on a smartphone), a digital representation is created that is stored on our secure and tamper-proof blockchain platform. It is this platform that allows for tracking of products providing visibility among all participants in their supply chain – from manufacture to customer purchase.

In addition, the blockchain platform is also used to store the unique digital identities of individual customers, and to tie ownership of a product to a customer at purchase time. No longer is it necessary to keep the receipt!

For example, a customer purchasing a luxury handbag that has QMC’s quantum dots incorporated into it by its manufacturer can use their smartphone to scan the bag to give them confidence that the bag is genuine. As a bonus, the manufacturer is notified that the bag’s authenticity has been checked and can offer a warranty or loyalty program to the customer in order to establish an enduring brand/customer relationship.

The bottom line for blockchain plus nanotechnology is that … it certainly impacts the bottom line. Surveys conducted by retailers point to customers not only appreciating being able to prove product authenticity but tending to buy more products where that functionality is available. They also frequent the retailer more often. Almost everyone is a winner – the customer, the retailer and the product brand. The criminal counterfeiters? Not so much.

By Stephen Squires, Founder & CEO, Quantum Materials Corp

MIT: Light-emitting particles (quantum dots) open new window for biological imaging


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‘Quantum dots’ that emit infrared light enable highly detailed images of internal body structures

For certain frequencies of short-wave infrared light, most biological tissues are nearly as transparent as glass. Now, researchers have made tiny particles that can be injected into the body, where they emit those penetrating frequencies. The advance may provide a new way of making detailed images of internal body structures such as fine networks of blood vessels.

The new findings, based on the use of light-emitting particles called quantum dots, is described in a paper in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, by MIT research scientist Oliver Bruns, recent graduate Thomas Bischof PhD ’15, professor of chemistry Moungi Bawendi, and 21 others.

Near-infrared imaging for research on biological tissues, with wavelengths between 700 and 900 nanometers (billionths of a meter), is widely used, but wavelengths of around 1,000 to 2,000 nanometers have the potential to provide even better results, because body tissues are more transparent to that light. “We knew that this imaging mode would be better” than existing methods, Bruns explains, “but we were lacking high-quality emitters” — that is, light-emitting materials that could produce these precise wavelengths.

QD bio Image II imagesLight-emitting particles have been a specialty of Bawendi, the Lester Wolf Professor of Chemistry, whose lab has over the years developed new ways of making quantum dots. These nanocrystals, made of semiconductor materials, emit light whose frequency can be precisely tuned by controlling the exact size and composition of the particles.

The key was to develop versions of these quantum dots whose emissions matched the desired short-wave infrared frequencies and were bright enough to then be easily detected through the surrounding skin and muscle tissues. The team succeeded in making particles that are “orders of magnitude better than previous materials, and that allow unprecedented detail in biological imaging,” Bruns says. The synthesis of these new particles was initially described in a paper by graduate student Daniel Franke and others from the Bawendi group in Nature Communications last year.

The quantum dots the team produced are so bright that their emissions can be captured with very short exposure times, he says. This makes it possible to produce not just single images but video that captures details of motion, such as the flow of blood, making it possible to distinguish between veins and arteries.

QD Bio Image IV GAAlso Read About

Graphene Quantum Dots Expand Role In Cancer Treatment And Bio-Imaging

 

 

The new light-emitting particles are also the first that are bright enough to allow imaging of internal organs in mice that are awake and moving, as opposed to previous methods that required them to be anesthetized, Bruns says. Initial applications would be for preclinical research in animals, as the compounds contain some materials that are unlikely to be approved for use in humans. The researchers are also working on developing versions that would be safer for humans.QD Bio Image III 4260773298_1497232bef

 

The method also relies on the use of a newly developed camera that is highly sensitive to this particular range of short-wave infrared light. The camera is a commercially developed product, Bruns says, but his team was the first customer for the camera’s specialized detector, made of indium-gallium-arsenide. Though this camera was developed for research purposes, these frequencies of infrared light are also used as a way of seeing through fog or smoke.

Not only can the new method determine the direction of blood flow, Bruns says, it is detailed enough to track individual blood cells within that flow. “We can track the flow in each and every capillary, at super high speed,” he says. “We can get a quantitative measure of flow, and we can do such flow measurements at very high resolution, over large areas.”

Such imaging could potentially be used, for example, to study how the blood flow pattern in a tumor changes as the tumor develops, which might lead to new ways of monitoring disease progression or responsiveness to a drug treatment. “This could give a good indication of how treatments are working that was not possible before,” he says.

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The team included members from MIT’s departments of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Biological Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering, as well as from Harvard Medical School, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Raytheon Vision Systems, and University Medical Center in Hamburg, Germany. The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the National Foundation for Cancer Research, the Warshaw Institute for Pancreatic Cancer Research, the Massachusetts General Hospital Executive Committee on Research, the Army Research Office through the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at MIT, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the National Science Foundation.

Additional background

ARCHIVE: A new contrast agent for MRI http://news.mit.edu/2017/iron-oxide-nanoparticles-contrast-agent-mri-0214

ARCHIVE: A new eye on the middle ear http://news.mit.edu/2016/shortwave-infrared-instrument-ear-infection-0822

ARCHIVE: Chemists design a quantum-dot spectrometer http://news.mit.edu/2015/quantum-dot-spectrometer-smartphone-0701

ARCHIVE: Running the color gamut http://news.mit.edu/2014/startup-quantum-dot-tv-displays-1119

ARCHIVE: Fine-tuning emissions from quantum dots http://news.mit.edu/2013/fine-tuning-emissions-from-quantum-dots-0602

Graphene Quantum Dots: Introduction and Market News


 

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What are quantum dots?

Quantum dots, or QDs, are semiconductor nanoparticles or nanocrystals, usually in the range of 2-10 nanometers (10-50 atoms) in size. Their small size and high surface-to-volume ratio affects their optical and electronic properties and makes them different from larger particles made of the same materials. Quantum dots confine the motion of conduction band electrons, valence band holes, or excitons (bound pairs of conduction band electrons and valence band holes) in all three spatial directions. Quantum dots are also sometimes referred to as ‘artificial atoms’, a term that emphasizes that they are a single object with bound, discrete electronic states, similarly to naturally occurring atoms or molecules.

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Image: Grapehene Quantum Dots 

Many types of quantum dot are fluorescent – they emit light of specific frequencies if electricity or light is applied to them. These frequencies can be tuned by changing the dots’ size, shape and material, opening the door to diverse applications. Generally speaking, smaller dots appear blue while larger ones tend to be more red. Specific colors also vary depending on the exact composition of the QD.
Applications

Thanks to their highly tunable properties, QDs are attracting interest from various application developers and researchers. Among these potential applications are displays, transistors, solar cells, diode lasers, quantum computing, and medical imaging. Additionally, their small size enables QDs to be suspended in solution, which leads to possible uses in inkjet printing and spin-coating. These processing techniques may result in less-expensive and less time consuming methods of semiconductor fabrication. Quantum dots are considered especially suitable for optical applications, thanks to their ability to emit diverse colors, coupled with their high efficiencies, longer lifetimes and high extinction coefficient.

 

Their small size also means that electrons do not have to travel as far as with larger particles, thus electronic devices can operate faster. Examples of applications that take advantage of these electronic properties include transistors, solar cells, quantum computing, and more. QDs can greatly improve LED screens, offering them higher peak brightness, better colour accuracy, higher color saturation and more. QDs are also very interesting for use in biomedical applications, since their small size allows them to travel in the body, thus making them suitable for applications like medical imaging, biosensors, etc.
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What is graphene?

 

Graphene is a material made of carbon atoms that are bonded together in a repeating pattern of hexagons. Graphene is so thin that it is considered two dimensional. Graphene’s flat honeycomb pattern gives it many extraordinary characteristics, such as being the strongest material in the world, as well as one of the lightest, most conductive and transparent. Graphene has endless potential applications, in almost every industry (like electronics, medicine, aviation and much more).

 

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Graphene structure photo
The single layers of carbon atoms provide the basis for many other materials. Graphite, like the substance found in pencil lead, is formed by stacked graphene. Carbon nanotubes are made of rolled graphene and are used in many emerging applications from sports gear to biomedicine.

 

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Graphene quantum dots

The term graphene quantum dots (GQDs) is usually used to describe miniscule fragments, limited in size, or domains, of single-layer to tens of layers of graphene. GQDs often possess properties like low toxicity, stable photoluminescence, chemical stability and pronounced quantum confinement effect, which make them attractive for biological, opto-electronics, energy and environmental applications.

 

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The synthesis of graphene quantum structures, such as graphene quantum dots, has become a popular topic in recent years. While graphene usually does not have a bandgap – which is a problem for many applications – graphene quantum dots do contain a bandgap due to quantum confinement and edge effects, and that bandgap modifies graphene’s carrier behaviors and can lead to versatile applications in optoelectronics. GQDs were also found to have four quantum states at a given energy level, unlike semiconductor quantum dots, which have only two. These additional quantum states, according to researchers, could make GQDs beneficial for quantum computing.
Additional properties of GQDs such as high transparency and high surface area have been proposed for energy and display applications. Because of the large surface area, electrodes using GQDs are applied for capacitors and batteries. Various techniques have been developed to produce GQDs. Top-down methods include solution chemical, microwave, and ultrasonic methods. Bottom-up methods include hydrothermal and electrochemical methods.

 

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Graphene Quantum Dots in the News

Dotz Nano secures first order of graphene quantum dots:

In January 2017, Dotz Nano, a nanotechnology company focused on the development, manufacture and commercialization of graphene quantum dots (GQDs), signed a marketing agreement with Strem Chemicals, a manufacturer and distributor of specialty chemicals headquartered in the U.S.

Strem Chemicals will aim to facilitate sales of Dotz’s GQDs to academic, industrial and government research and development laboratories, as well as commercial businesses using GQDs for research purposes.

 
Fuji Pigment announces graphene and carbon QD manufacturing process:

In April 2016, Fuji Pigment announced the development of a large-scale manufacturing process for carbon and graphene quantum dots (QDs). Fuji Pigment stated that its toxic-metal-free QDs exhibit a high light-emitting quantum efficiency and stability comparable to the toxic metal-based quantum dots.

 
Samsung developed graphene quantum dots based flash memory devices:

In June 2014, researchers from Samsung Electronics (and Korea’s Kyung Hee University) developed flash devices based on graphene quantum dots (GQDs). The performance of such a device is promising, with an electron density that is comparable to semiconductor and metal nanocrystal based memories. Those flash memory can also be made flexible and transparent.

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Read More: Graphene ‘artificial atom’ opens door to quantum computing