Unique Technology from RCPTM Detects Forged Food and Cosmetics

Radek Zbořil (on the left) and Václav Ranc were awarded with a gold medal at the international exhibition Invent Arena. Photo: Martina Šaradínová
friday 29. july 2016, 12:46 – Text: Martina Šaradínová

Scientists from the Regional Centre of Advanced Technologies and Materials have an efficient tool in the battle against forgers of liquors, perfumes, and other cosmetics. They have developed a technology that may protect the consumer from non-quality imitations, thus possibly preventing their health problems. The method has already met with interest among inventors. Its commercial potential has been confirmed by the gold medal from the international exhibition of technical innovations and patents Invent Arena in Třinec, hosting 21 exhibitors from 21 countries.

KeyLock is an instrument which prevents forging by means of a unique pair of compounds called Key and Lock. “The method is based on adding certain molecules into the product in very low concentrations. These molecules work like a lock that protects the product. A nanomaterial made on the basis of magnetic particles and silver with an anchored chemical key then enables you to find and select these molecules, separate them by means of a magnetic field, and extremely precisely evaluate their concentration by surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy. The used Key and Lock are known only to the producer,“ explained RCPTM Director Radek Zbořil, one of the authors of the technology.

The idea emerged from the basic research at RCPTM, when the same team published articles in the journal Analytical Chemistry published by the American Chemical Society on the use of a similar nanocomposite for detection of extremely low concentrations of diagnostically important molecules in the blood or spinal fluid. “There was only one step on to the idea that the molecules do not have to be necessarily searched for by the nano-key and measured for concentration in medicinal applications only – and that they could be added as a sort of lock to all kinds of products for the purpose of their authenticity control,” added Zbořil.

The KeyLock technology was developed at Palacký University during the investigation within proof-of-concept projects that help transfer

the academic science findings into practice and are supported by the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic. The commercial potential of the new technology is immense. “It may be utilised in the food industry as well as in cosmetics and in the production and distribution of fuels. The chemical lock added to the product is identical with natural ingredients, is absolutely non-toxic, and not harmful to the environment. It is added in extraordinary low concentrations and cannot be detected by other methods. The costs for such a protection are minimal given the overall product’s price. Consumers and producers alike will certainly appreciate this technology,” said Václav Ranc, the co-author of the method that UP decided to have protected by a European patent.

The KeyLock technology won the Best Exhibit prize at this year’s exhibition of technical innovations, patents, and inventions Invent Arena. Exhibitors from more than 20 countries came to show their innovations, inventions, patents, and new technologies. KeyLock from Olomouc competed in the category Chemistry, Agriculture, Healthcare, Biotechnology. “The gold medal for KeyLock is a clear proof of the fact that highly innovative products are created at Palacký University and that the link between academic and commercial sectors becomes increasingly stronger,” said Jiří Herinek, Director of the UP Science and Technology Park, who represented the university at this international exhibition.