July 15, 2011

Developing the Bank of Canada's new polymer bank notes

OTTAWA -- Designing bank notes is a process that never really ends. As the Bank of Canada launches its new series of polymer notes, thought is already being given to the series that will follow.

The work of the Bank of Canada's Currency Development Team includes constantly evaluating possible counterfeiting threats and new security features. Security is always the driving force behind issuing new bank notes, and being on top of leading-edge features is essential.

A new series takes several years to develop and test. The Polymer series was about five years in the making and it took a team of engineers, chemists, physicists, researchers, artists and analysts at the Bank and its partners to bring it to life.


User needs are a key consideration. Groups from retailers, police agencies, financial institutions, bank note equipment manufacturers, the blind and partially-sighted community, and the general public are consulted along the way. All have an important part to play in the planning process. Considerations include note verification by machines and people, how long notes will last and their environmental footprint. The final result is a series of notes made for Canadians.

The new Polymer series goes one step further and includes a unique combination of security features not seen before anywhere in the world. The combination of polymer material and bold security features like the large transparent window—with a detailed metallic portrait and building—is all about staying one step ahead of counterfeiters.

Thinking like the bad guys

Members of the Currency Development Team must think like a counterfeiter. "Staying ahead of counterfeiting is definitely a unique aspect of our job," says Ted Garanzotis, the team's Senior Scientific Adviser. Studying the counterfeiting techniques used by criminals and trying to counterfeit Canada's bank notes makes for a pretty exceptional job description!

Tried and true

Durability testing is another aspect of research and development. Bank notes are subjected to extensive wear and tear testing to see how they will hold up in the real world. Notes are evaluated for resistance to crumpling, tearing, extreme temperatures and prolonged sun exposure, to name a few.

The Currency Development Team is responsible for producing state-of-the-art bank notes that strike the right balance between being easy to verify and hard to counterfeit notes that Canadians will be able to use with the highest confidence.

From the lab to your wallet

Visit www.bankofcanada.ca/banknotes and watch the Research and Development video. It's the first in a five-part series called The Life of a Bank Note: From the Lab to Your Wallet.

Next up—Design

In August, our video series The Life of a Bank Note: From the Lab to Your Wallet will look at the process of designing new bank notes. The Bank of Canada doesn't do it alone. Find out how Canadians have a say in selecting the designs that make our bank notes uniquely Canadian.


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