Over the next three years scientists from QinetiQ and the University of Exeter, UK, will build on a portfolio of patented technology to develop new anti-counterfeit and RF technologies. The work will be based on groundbreaking physical sciences research in the field of tailored electromagnetic materials—made by studying the wings of butterflies.

By understanding how the wing surfaces control light to produce iridescence, the team will apply the same physics to control infrared, microwave or radio wave radiation to develop new anti-counterfeit technology, radio-frequency identification technology, WiFi efficiency and security applications.

The £3.2 M project is funded through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Knowledge Transfer Accounts (KTA), which were established to help translate research into business innovation. The initial product targets are in the growth markets of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Anti-Counterfeiting measures (ACF). The team aims to launch its first innovation in spring 2010 and will be hosting a number of investor forum events at the university and in London.

“Butterfly wings create a myriad of visual effects through subtle changes in the size, shape or structure of fine scales on their surface which can refract or absorb light and produce vivid colours,” said Andrew Treen, QinetiQ’s entrepreneur within the project. “By understanding the underlying optical properties, we can develop and apply the principles to a variety of other commercial applications in the infrared, microwave and radio wave segments of the spectrum and develop solutions that will help society. The natural world still holds many secrets, but this project will hopefully unlock a few more of them.”