Tamper-proof holograms that are created with a laser have been developed by a team of scientists from Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University.
Although electronics manufacturers have been etching serial numbers or placing polymer stickers onto their products for some time, these can be vulnerable to damage or copying.
The newly developed holograms however are considerably more difficult to replicate, dealing a blow to techniques used in the counterfeit goods trade.
The team have developed a new process that uses an ultra-violet laser to sculpt unique holograms with micro-sized features directly onto the surface of metals, making them tamper-proof.
Individual laser pulses melt the surface in an extremely precise way to produce smooth impressions on the metal. By manipulating the laser beam to create specific patterns, holographic structures are produced that can act as security markings for high value products and components.
Researcher Dr Krystian Wlodarczyk said: "The holograms are visible to the naked eye and appear as smooth, shiny textures.
"They're robust to local damage and readable by using a collimated beam from a low-cost, commercially available laser pointer, so border agencies or consumers won't need expensive technology to check an item's authenticity.”
The holograms can be imprinted onto a variety of metals and the team are now looking at whether they can further miniaturise the markings and apply them to other materials.
"Recently, for instance, we have extended the process for use of such holograms on glass," Wlodarczyk said.
The research project was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESPRC) and initial findings have been published in the Journal of Material Processing Technology.
E&T Magazine conducted a report into the global trade of counterfeit consumer electronics in 2010.