Isotope Tagging For Workpiece Authentication


Executive Summary


Over the last 50 years, the U.S. Department of Justice has ranked art crime behind only drugs and arms in terms of highest-grossing criminal trades. While many incidents go unreported making it difficult to estimate the volume and total economic value lost, Interpol estimates have put the losses worldwide due to forgery and theft at $4 to 6 billion. Various methods have been implemented to authenticate forgeries such as carbon dating for antiquities, stable isotope signatures in marble pieces, and UV/infrared analysis of paintings.  However, these techniques utilize a passive approach to analyze pre-existing conditions of pieces of art and more advanced methods are beneficial for tracking and authenticating valuable items. MSU researchers have developed a method of authentication using uncommon ingredients offering protection against sophisticated forgers and thieves.


Description of Technology


This MSU technology is a method of labeling (tagging) a workpiece with a rare man made isotope, which acts as a unique identifier for anti-counterfeiting purposes. The workpiece would be marked with sub-surface deposition directly into the backside of a canvas or other medium. These rare isotopes can be generated and implanted at advanced accelerator labs such as a cyclotron along with a visual marker and are impossible to generate otherwise. The unique decay signatures can be verified with inexpensive standard detection techniques offering an easy and reliable way to monitor the workpiece. The method may include unique combinations of isotope patterns and/or combinations of isotopes with distinct decay emissions and half-lives.


Key Benefits

  • Increased uniqueness (i.e. security) with use of rare, hard-to-obtain isotopes
  • Nonhazardous to people and workpiece
  • Non-destructive authentication



  • Isotopic anti-counterfeit labeling for high-end valuables
  • Civil and military tracking of dangerous material (e.g. explosives)


Patent Status: 




Licensing Rights Available:


Full licensing rights available




Wolfgang Bauer, Bradley Sherrill


Tech ID:




Patent Information:


For Information, Contact:

Raymond Devito
Technology Manager
Michigan State University