VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY

Researchers have come up with a way to make your credit cards harder to hack. Using this:

You can’t see from the image, but that spiral is very, very, very small. A press release discussing the findings from researchers at Vanderbilt University reports it is six million times smaller than a dime. At that size, the nano-spirals behave a certain way. From the press release, “when they are illuminated with infrared laser light, they emit visible blue light.” Though some crystals also emit blue light under infrared lasers, the gold nano-spiral’s light is especially strong.

The researchers also found that polarized laser lights affect how much blue light the spiral emits.

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Images from the paper, "Efficient forward second-harmonic generation from planar archimedean nanospirals."

These interactions make a particular gold spiral easy to customize and then identify — and hard to replicate. That could make it useful in fighting counterfeiters. In research director Richard Haglund’s words, “If nano-spirals were embedded in a credit card or identification card, they could be detected by a device comparable to a barcode reader.”

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Here's to tiny, blue-glowing, stealing-proof credit cards.

Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.