Prototype: Only insiders know that the access code must be entered on the foil on the door hinge. Image: © Empa

How do you open this? Where’s the keypad? Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (Empa) have developed an invisible “keypad” made of transparent, printed electronics. Only people who know where it is and how to enter the necessary code will be able to gain access. At first glance, Empa researcher Evgeniia Gilshtein’s idea is almost invisible. But what looks like a simple, transparent film aims to provide a whole new level of security. The see-through carrier material is printed with invisible controls, the position of which is only known to individuals authorised to use them. Controls of this kind could be used (for example) to input an entry code that operates a door. Using a finger to touch the controls on the polymer film in a predetermined sequence opens the lock. The research team at the Thin Films and Photovoltaics lab at Empa in Dübendorf had previously already been able to print electronic controls and sensors onto polymer films. The transparent security film advances one of the technology’s many uses. “What was most important to us was that the film’s additive manufacturing process could also be used on an industrial scale,” said Gilshtein. Among other uses, the invisible keypad could secure doors in banks and hospitals, as well as in private homes.

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