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Polymer banknotes were developed by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and were first issued as currency in Australia in 1988. These banknotes are made from the polymer biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP) which greatly enhances durability of the banknotes. Polymer banknotes also incorporate many security features not available to paper banknotes, making counterfeiting much more difficult.
Trading as Securency the RBA with Innovia Films (a subsidiary of the UCB group) market BOPP as 'Guardian' for countries with their own banknote printing facilities. Note Printing Australia (a subsidiary of the RBA) prints commemorative banknotes and banknotes for circulation and has done so for 19 countries.
An alternative polymer of polyethylene fibres marketed as Tyvek by DuPont was developed for use as currency by the American Bank Note Company in the early 1980s. Tyvek did not perform well in trials, smudging of ink and fragility were reported problems. Only Costa Rica, Haiti and the Isle of Man issued Tyvek banknotes; however, they are no longer produced and have become collectors' items.
Development of polymer banknotes
Polymer banknotes were developed to increase the security of Australia's paper currency against counterfeiting. In 1967 forgeries of the Australian $10 note were found in circulation and the RBA was concerned about an increase in counterfeiting with the release of colour photocopiers that year. In 1968 the RBA started collaborations with the CSIRO and funds were made available in 1969 for the experimental production of distinctive papers.
The insertion of an optically variable device (OVD) created from diffraction gratings in plastic as a security device inserted in banknotes was proposed in 1972. The first patent arising from the development of polymer banknotes was filed in 1973. In 1974 the technique of lamination was used to combine materials; the all-plastic laminate eventually chosen was a clear, BOPP laminate, in which OVDs could be inserted without needing to punch holes. The BOPP substrate is processed through the following steps:
- Opacifying - two layers of ink (usually white) are applied to each side of the note, except for an area(s) that is deliberately left clear for creating an OVD;
- Sheeting - the substrate is cut into sheets suitable for the printing press;
- Printing - traditional offset, intaglio and letterpress printing processes are used; and
- Overcoating - notes are coated with a protective varnish.
BOPP is a non-fibrous and non-porous polymer. Compared to paper banknotes, banknotes made using BOPP are more durable, harder to tear, more resistant to folding, more resistant to soil, waterproof (and washing machine proof), easier to machine process, and are shreddable and recyclable at the end of their useful lives. On the downside, they have a slightly less robust feel in the hand due to their slipperiness, and their higher "springiness" makes them resistant to folding.
The traditional printed security features applied on paper can also be applied on polymer. These features include intaglio, offset and letterpress printing, latent images, micro-printing, and intricate background patterns. Polymer notes can be different colours on the obverse and reverse sides. Like paper currency, polymer banknotes can incorporate a watermark (an optically variable 'shadow image') in the polymer substrate. Shadow images can be created by the application of Optically Variable Ink (OVI) enhancing its fidelity and colour shift characteristics. Security threads can also be embedded in the polymer note; they may be magnetic, fluorescent, phosphorescent, microprinted, clear text, as well as windowed. Like paper, the polymer can also be embossed.
Polymer notes also enable new security features unavailable on paper, such as transparent windows, and diffraction grating.
The transparent window where the OVD is located is a key security feature of the polymer banknote. It is easily identifiable allowing anyone to be able to authenticate a banknote.
Because the polymer bank note contains many security features that cannot be successfully reproduced by photocopying or scanning, it is very difficult to counterfeit. The complexities of counterfeiting polymer banknotes are proposed to act as a deterrent to counterfeiters.
See also Security printing
Adoption of polymer banknotes
Countries with notes printed on Guardian polymer in circulation include, in alphabetical order:
- Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Brunei, Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Western Samoa and Zambia.
Countries that have issued commemorative banknotes (which are not in circulation) on Guardian polymer include, in alphabetical order:
- China, People's Republic of, China, Republic of (Taiwan), Kuwait, Northern IrelandTemplate:Fn, Singapore and the Solomon Islands.
Timeline of adoptions
- In 1999, Romania was the first European country, and the third country in the world, to introduce a full set of circulating polymer banknotes.
- In 1999, Taiwan, issued a 10 Yuan note to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the issuance of New Taiwan Dollar.
- In April 2000, Brazil released a 10 reais polymer bill in the 500th celebration of the Portuguese arrival in America. The Brazilian Mint printed 250 million banknotes, around half the 10 reais bills available.
- In 2003, Zambia was the first African country to adopt polymer banknotes.
- In 2004 it was estimated that there were over 3 billion polymer notes in service.
- In July 2005, Romania became the first country to issue a full second set of plastic notes, the notes bearing the same design format as the old notes, but made the same size as euro notes and with four zeroes removed from the denomination.
- Polymer Bank Notes of the World (by Stane ┼átraus), the world's leading reference for polymer bank notes
- Currency Note Research and Development Project, CSIRO, Division of Chemicals and Polymers Guide to Records
- CSIRO-Polymer banknote information sheet
- Note Printing Australia
- custom essays