New Paint Could Help Solve Counterfeit Parts Problem

By Valerie Insinna
A fledgling Australian company is hoping to break into the U.S. defense market this year with a paint that could help prevent counterfeit parts from making their way into equipment.

Chameleon is a paint containing a unique chemical fingerprint made up of rare earth elements, said Nina Hobson, executive director of Chameleon Asset Protection, which was formed in 2012 after the product was developed. The paint is invisible under normal circumstances, but under a black light becomes fluorescent. Customers can choose existing color options or have the company create a custom hue.

“You paint this onto an asset … and it dries invisible in minutes,” she said. “You take a pinhead sample — and that’s all it needs is a pinhead — and we can test that in a lab and it will tell us 100 percent who this belongs to.”

Many similar anti-counterfeit products contain plant DNA, which eventually breaks down. However, because Chameleon is made of rare earth, it can better withstand extreme conditions such as high temperatures, she said.

“Once it’s on, it’s almost impossible to remove,” Hobson said. Because the product has only been on the market for a couple of years, the company does not know how long the coating will be effective. “Certainly the stuff that we’ve originally marked is still on there.”

Chameleon executives want to expand business into the Middle East and United States this year, and are hoping to team up with U.S. companies to offer the coating or other products containing it. For instance, the company is collaborating with a Canadian nonlethal technology company to produce a less-lethal bullet that would secrete the paint upon impact, Hobson said. Because Chameleon cannot be removed from clothing and takes at least seven days to wear off on skin, it could allow the police to later identify those who ran from the scene of a riot or illicit border crossing.

Customers have also bought the paint to mark rhinoceros horns in Zimbabwe as an anti-poaching measure, she said. If a rhinoceros horn is found on the market, an anti-poaching team can test where it was from and adjust security appropriately.

“Even when the horn is ground down into a fine powder we can still find that chemical fingerprint to say where that rhino is from,” she said.

Topics: Business Trends, Doing Business with the Government

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