About taggant technology

Taggants are unique codes to which you assign meaning. Microtrace is the original taggant technology company and offers multiple taggant systems.

What are taggants?

Taggants are uniquely encoded materials or chemistries that are virtually impossible to duplicate. A taggant is like a fingerprint—a unique signature of identity to which customers assign meaning. Taggants can be overt or covert and are used for a wide variety of industries and applications.

First developed by 3M, Microtaggant® Identification Particles are the original taggant technology, the origin of the commonly used word “taggant” and are exclusively produced by Microtrace. 

How taggants can help

The most common way taggants are used? Taggants for brand protection against counterfeits and false liability/ warranty claims. Taggants provide qualitative yes/no authentication for batches of genuine or authorized products or materials. Some taggant systems can be used for quality control, as the taggants can be quantified, making it possible to identify dilution and proper mix ratios. 

Common taggant applications

A range of taggant systems are available, meaning there is a taggant solution for almost any application.

Taggant materials - chemical taggants or taggant particles - are:

  • Organic or inorganic
  • Soluble or insoluble ­
  • Stable or unstable to UV, heat, etc.

Incorporated in or on products:

  • Formulated directly into products or materials
  • Applied to surfaces with spray, print or other transfer means
  • Incorporated into packaging—as inks, labels, transfers, plastics, adhesives, paperboard and more

Taggant detection

Determining the presence of a taggant can be done in a variety of ways depending on the taggant technology used.

Detection strategies  include:

  • In contact or from a distance
  • ­Incorporation in OEM devices ­
  • Quantification, yes/no presence analysis
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) analysis and cloud reporting

Utilizing a variety of detection instruments:

  • Inexpensive handheld detectors
  • Laser pens
  • Microscopes
  • UV light
  • Handheld spectrometers
  • Complex laboratory analysis

Taggant security

The range of available taggant systems have a corresponding wide range of security levels. It is important to understand and evaluate the challenges of your application, as well as the sophistication of counterfeiters or threat level.

“Taggant” has become a broad term used for a range of materials or chemistries and detection strategies. Some are simply novel materials that do not provide security beyond a basic level. Many taggant options available in the market provide a false sense of security because they are simple for counterfeiters to duplicate or mimic sufficiently to fool a detector. The danger in implementing a taggant solution that isn’t fully optimized can leave brands believing they have eliminated issues, because counterfeit products cannot be distinguished from genuine.  

The best way to guarantee success of a taggant system is to answer “yes” to the following: 

Is it a custom signature for your application?

  • If it is not, that taggant may be a commodity that is easily sources by counterfeiters.

Is sampling the exact materials you hope to implement prohibited? 

  • If you can sample it, it is not unique to you.

Are detectors calibrated to your finished taggant signature? 

  • If detectors are sent with a raw material taggant to be implemented in your supply chain through a printer or other manufacturer, the detectors will need to be programmed to accept a wide range taggant signatures, leaving gaping holes for counterfeiters to mimic the signature and fool a detector.

Microtrace’s taggant
system advantage

The level of security you achieve is only as strong as the weakest link within your solution. A strong taggant program includes customization, quality and unique taggants and reliable and accurate detection strategies. By choosing Microtrace, you benefit from a fully optimized taggant system—combining a solid manufacturing process and accurate taggant readers and analysis.


Microtrace is the only option that brings together the core competencies needed for the most secure taggant systems—chemistry and material sciences, application engineering, and detectors and analytics.


Contact us to discuss the possibilities of putting taggants to work for you.

Technology that powers taggants

Learn more about the advanced chemistries and technologies behind Microtrace solutions.

See Technology

See Microtrace technologies in action

Beyond understanding the mechanism for how this technology works, review examples of how Microtrace technologies can be applied to create complete security solutions. 

View Solutions

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