Three-dimensional quick response code based on inkjet printing of upconversion fluorescent nanoparticles for drug anti-counterfeiting
Medicine counterfeiting is a serious issue worldwide, involving potentially devastating health repercussions. Advanced anti-counterfeit technology for drugs has therefore aroused intensive interest. However, existing anti-counterfeit technologies are associated with drawbacks such as the high cost, complex fabrication process, sophisticated operation and incapability in authenticating drug ingredients. In this contribution, we developed a smart phone recognition based upconversion fluorescent three-dimensional (3D) quick response (QR) code for tracking and anti-counterfeiting of drugs. We firstly formulated three colored inks incorporating upconversion nanoparticles with RGB (i.e., red, green and blue) emission colors. Using a modified inkjet printer, we printed a series of colors by precisely regulating the overlap of these three inks. Meanwhile, we developed a multilayer printing and splitting technology, which significantly increases the information storage capacity per unit area. As an example, we directly printed the upconversion fluorescent 3D QR code on the surface of drug capsules. The 3D QR code consisted of three different color layers with each layer encoded by information of different aspects of the drug. A smart phone APP was designed to decode the multicolor 3D QR code, providing the authenticity and related information of drugs. The developed technology possesses merits in terms of low cost, ease of operation, high throughput and high information capacity, thus holds great potential for drug anti-counterfeiting.