Posted by META® Team on Apr 21, 2023 10:00:00 AM

KolourOptik®—A Pioneering Technology Forging a Path towards Sustainable Banknotes

Figure 1. The Blue Morpho Butterfly inspired the development of KolourOptik®—a META® technology for manufacturing visually stunning, environmentally sustainable banknote security features

Banknotes constitute a central pillar of modern economies, enabling an immense volume of financial transactions every day. Despite the surge in popularity of digital currencies and the trend towards a cashless society, banknotes will continue to play an indispensable role in upholding democratic values in the foreseeable future, given their transparency, widespread acceptance, equitable accessibility, and anonymity. 

Functional and security features form an integral part of a typical contemporary banknote. Stacked in a multilayer structure, these features generally include various types of inks (e.g., offset, intaglio, magnetic, and ultraviolet inks) and foil-applied anticounterfeiting devices (e.g., threads, stripes, and patches).  

Manufacturing each ink layer necessitates a separate production step, as well as unique, and often rare, raw materials. Considering their large circulation numbers, maintaining an adequate supply of banknotes requires a significant amount of ink, the sourcing and production of which leaves a considerable carbon footprint. The aggregate carbon emissions associated with the ink layers on banknotes are even greater as more energy is consumed at the processing and printing steps. In addition, the foils used to apply security features, such as patches and stripes, onto banknotes are generally discarded after the fabrication process, resulting in a substantial material waste. 

KolourOptik®, a technology developed by Meta Materials Inc. (META®), provides a powerful tool for incorporating a wide range of visually compelling effects, such as multicolor, movement, and three-dimensional depth, into a single security device for banknote authentication. Instead of inks, the light-manipulating effects of a combination of micro- and nanostructural metamaterials comprising nanometer-thin films of aluminum, a metal known for its outstanding recyclability and low environmental impact, underpin the optical cues delivered by KolourOptik® features. This technology will also allow for direct embossing of security features on banknote substrates, thereby eliminating the need for foils and effectively preventing waste. These factors collectively position KolourOptik® as a much more sustainable approach for manufacturing banknote security features. 

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Figure 2. KolourOptik® generation-zero nickel duplication master (left) and product (right) 

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Figure 2. KolourOptik® generation-zero nickel duplication master (left) and product (right)

Besides the ink-free KolourOptik® technology itself, META®, a champion of sustainable growth and development, has in recent years redoubled its efforts towards environmental sustainability in the manufacture of KolourOptik®-based banknote security features. META® heats and powers its entire facility purposely constructed in Thurso, Quebec, Canada for producing currency security with renewable hydroelectric power. This energy source plays a crucial role in reducing both the carbon footprint and production cost. In addition, META® utilizes an innovative water-based lift-off demetallization process that can be leveraged to create large transparent windows in security devices or to enhance security around metallic features through the addition of micro-text or symbols to the design. Unlike conventional methods that use highly corrosive agents to etch away metal, the process employed at META® lifts off metal with a water-soluble masking agent. This environmentally friendly approach eliminates the use of harsh chemicals and produces windowed effects with defined edges. Furthermore, various initiatives are currently being pursued to achieve compliance with the ISO 14001 and 45001 standards for environmental and occupational health and safety management systems. 

Figure 3. KolourOptik® forges a path towards sustainable banknotes

To learn more about KolourOptik® Stripe, our latest sustainable banknote security feature, please click here. Our sustainability efforts are twofold. We continue to push the boundaries of performance and sustainability in products by designing and manufacturing highly functional materials and devices that use less energy and less materials. In addition, we improve supply chains by replacing scarce metals for a wide range of industries like banknote security features.  

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Topics: KolourOptik®, KolourOptik® Stripe, Banknote, Banknote Security

META® Team

Written by META® Team