High-Content Optical Codes for Protecting Rapid Diagnostic Tests from Counterfeiting
Warnings and reports on counterfeit diagnostic devices are released several times a year by regulators and public health agencies. Unfortunately, mishandling, altering, and counterfeiting point-of-care diagnostics (POCDs) and rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) is lucrative, relatively simple and can lead to devastating consequences. Here, we demonstrate how to implement optical security codes in silicon- and nitrocellulose-based flow paths for device authentication using a smartphone. The codes are created by inkjet spotting inks directly on nitrocellulose or on micropillars. Codes containing up to 32 elements per mm2 and 8 colors can encode as many as 1045 combinations. Codes on silicon micropillars can be erased by setting a continuous flow path across the entire array of code elements or for nitrocellulose by simply wicking a liquid across the code. Static or labile code elements can further be formed on nitrocellulose to create a hidden code using poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) or glycerol additives to the inks. More advanced codes having a specific deletion sequence can also be created in silicon microfluidic devices using an array of passive routing nodes, which activate in a particular, programmable sequence. Such codes are simple to fabricate, easy to view, and efficient in coding information; they can be ideally used in combination with information on a package to protect diagnostic devices from counterfeiting.