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By using more than one measurement – or “multi-modal biometrics” – Honeyman says technologies such as Nanoident’s could produce more secure fingerprint systems. But he also cautions that security measures can eventually be cracked – especially if the payoff is large enough to justify the effort and investment.

Schroeter says his company is developing the technology in cooperation with a major producer of cell-phone parts. And they plan to build scanners into “smart” credit cards or cash cards. In this application, the printed electronics would compare the scan to data about the finger stored onboard the card. Banks considering the use of smart cards prefer storing information on a card to in a centralized database to be accessed via a card reader, since such a database could be vulnerable, Schroeter says.

The company plans to use its printed light sensors and emitters and electronics for other applications, too, including biochips. Currently, these chips, which are widely used in biomedical research, have arrays of material that fluoresce when target molecules are present, and require expensive readers. Cheaper printed scanners could be useful for relatively simple applications, such as allergy tests.

Home page image: A high-resolution organic photodetector (250 dots per inch) uses technology that could be incorporated into accurate, inexpensive fingerprint scanners. (Courtesy of Nanoident.)

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