Students demonstrated skills in forging holographic security features of future banknotes

Three Estonian guys came up with a way to forge the holographic security features on imaginary future money and were the youngest team to win first place at the international Open Research Challenge contest in the category of photonics technology. A test device was installed at the University of Tartu Institute of Physics which demonstrates the creation of holograms.

The international contest Open Research Challenge, organised by Friedrich-Alexander University, consisted of three categories: digital forensics, discrete optimisation and photonic technologies.

The Estonian team “Team Tartu”, which consisted third year doctoral student of UT Institute of Physics Andreas Valdmann and ETH Zurich master’s students Roland Matt and Ants Remm, competed in the third category.

Andreas Valdmann described that the photonic technology task required coming up with a way to forge holographic security features on imaginary future money. “The task was divided into three parts: in the first two we had to decode the message hidden the hologram. In the third part we had to develop a method to create fake holograms.”

The team looked for ideas in special literature, wrote a program to design fake holograms, compared different solutions and in the end wrote a report on their work.

The solution of the team that works together in the UT Laboratory of Physical Optics under Professor of Wave Optics Peeter Saari was so successful that it earned them first place. “Our advantages were probably strong base knowledge about the optics and mathematics necessary for solving the task and this enabled us to spend a lot of time on the details,” thinks Roland Matt who is a master’s student in Zurich after having finished his bachelor’s studies in the University of Tartu.

University of Tartu doctoral student Valdmann added that thoroughness was definitely what helped them succeed. “We tried four different solutions, compared them and determined the best one. We also wrote a report which is fit for a scientific article.”

Although in the contest the team created only a computer simulation, they constructed an actual test device that creates holograms for everyone to check out at the UT Physicum.

The winning team has known each other for a long time: first they were schoolmates at Tartu Hugo Treffner Gymnasium and then co-workers at the UT Laboratory of Physical Optics. During their gymnasium studies they participated in Olympiads and now they help the committee of the physics Olympiad to create new tasks. “Despite the fact that two team members study in Zurich, we find the time to take part in challenges together,” said Valdmann.

Valdmann said that the contest was a great teamwork experience. “Solving similar problem tasks is one of the most effective learning methods and now we know a lot more about digital holography than we did before the contest.  After solving the task we were thrilled about our joint achievement and now we can also enjoy our triumph.”

The winners were awarded with a weeklong trip to Friedrich-Alexander University in Germany, where they shared ideas with the contest organizers on future developments of the technology.

The team is grateful to their good friend and colleague Heli Lukner who recommended they participate in the contest.

Additional information: Andreas Valdmann, member of Team Tartu, doctoral student at the University of Tartu Institute of Physics, e-mail:

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