Barcodes, RFID, and… Nanoparticles?

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Barcodes, RFID, and Nanoparticles… which one of these three doesn’t belong?

If I were to ask that question a couple months ago, nanoparticles would clearly be the black sheep. However, thanks to scientists at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), nanoparticles now share something in common with barcodes and RFID: they all have the ability to track assets.

What is a nanoparticle? Science Daily defines a nanoparticle as “a microscopic particle with at least one dimension less than 100 nm.”

A report titled “Covert Thermal Barcodes Based on Phase Change Nanoparticles” may be lengthy, but it sure did catch my eye. How on earth can a nanoparticle act as a barcode? The WPI scientists realized that certain nanoparticles have distinct melting points that show via thermal imaging – so using different combinations of these nanoparticles could essentially “label” an object.

What does this mean for the barcode industry? Well, I don’t see barcodes and RFID being replaced by nanoparticles, but it expands the horizon for asset tracking capabilities. While barcodes are great for tracking semi-stationary assets with a barcode scanner like an LI4728 and RFID is more practical for assets on the move, such as an assembly line, “nanoparticle barcoding” can track powders, liquids, and pretty much anything that you can’t attach a barcode or an RFID tag to.

With this technology, we can track a variety of assets and surfaces discretely. For example, by adding the nanoparticles to inks, we can track money (and verify if it’s been counterfeited) or track documents with the nanoparticles printed directly onto them. Wouldn’t this be a practical application for, say, a law office to track the whereabouts of important legal files? Perhaps. The possibilities are endless.

Where could you see this new “nanoparticle barcoding” being applied? Let us know on Twitter, @LTronCorp!

About the author:JSHeadshot

Jason Shanley is L-Tron’s Content Creator & Creative Design Specialist and often writes about Zebra Technologies, mPOS, mobile computers, and 2D barcodes in retail. Jason believes everything can be fixed with tape and plays volleyball on Tuesdays. He can be reached at jason.shanley@L-Tron.com or (800) 830-9523 ext 115.