''RFID Tags'' in New US Notes Explode When You Try to Microwave Them

March 01, 2004

I'm not sure whether this is for real, but maybe some of our US readers would care to test and leave us a comment?

"Dave and Denise" report (there's a photo and all):

Dave had over $1000 dollars in his back pocket (in his wallet). New twenties were the lion share of the bills in his wallet. We walked into a truck stop/travel plaza and they have those new electronic monitors that are supposed to say if you are stealing something. But through every monitor, Dave set it off. [...]

We could have left it at that, but we have also paid attention to the European Union and the 'rfid' tracking devices placed in their money, and the blatant bragging of Walmart and many corporations of using 'rfid' electronics on every marketable item by the year 2005.[...]

So we chose to 'microwave' our cash, over $1000 in twenties in a stack, not spread out on a carasoul. Do you know what exploded on American money?? The right eye of Andrew Jackson on the new twenty, every bill was uniform in it's burning... Isnt that interesting?

We've previously mentioned that the IRS has been playing with the idea of RFID'ing money; is this already in place in the new US twenties, or is it just a (non-RFID) metallic component of the bills that explode in the above mentioned experiment?

All comments that can shed some light on the phenomenon are welcome!

Posted by andersja


The privacy implications of RFID tags in banknotes should not be overhyped.

The Internal Revenue Service in the USA or any other country are *not* the people in charge of the anti-counterfeiting measures in banknotes.

The technical challenges of embedding an RFID tag and antenna in exactly the same place in a banknote are formidable - any slight misplacment will result in an increase in counterfeit false alarms raised by visual inspection.

Banknotes *already* have unique serial numbers which can be read optically in a cash handling machine (or visually by humans). If a wad of cash is going to pass through one of these, where each note is read one at a time, there is no advantage to using an RFID tag.

Any attempt to read the serial numbers of a wad of banknotes remotely via RFID faces problems due to the close proximity of each note to the next, typically much less than the wavelength of the radio signals being used - you might just read the serial number of the top and bottom notes in a wad, but not the ones in the middle, so why bother ?

Embedding a hard, brittle, sharp edged silcon chip inside the thickness of a piece of paper or even plastic, will reduce the wear and tear lifetime of a banknote (and therefore its cost) compared with the flexible metal foil strips which are in some current banknotes, and which may well account for the microwave oven damage.

The tiny Hitachi mu-chip RFID tags (not EPC compliant), with the antenna wrapped around the chip packaging, therefore limiting the read range to a few centimetres at most, were reported as being considered for inclusion in high denomination 500 Euro banknotes, but this is now being denied by Hitachi themselves.

Banknotes could conceivably be printed on paper using so called "Chipless RFID" technologies, like CrossID or Inkode but these have yet to be demonstrated to have the ability to create an unambiguous "unique" serial number and even the proposed millimetre wave of sub-millimetre wave radio frequencies (10Ghz to 70GHz) are still not fine enough to resolve a stack of banknotes each separated only by two halves of the thickness of a piece of paper.


Posted by: Watching Them, Watching Us at March 1, 2004 08:11 PM

There is some more commentary on the US 20 dollar incident here:

Posted by: Anders at March 2, 2004 10:37 AM
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