Scientists have created tamper-proof holograms that could provide a blow to the counterfeit goods trade.

Electronics manufacturers traditionally etch serial numbers into their products or use polymer stickers, but these can be vulnerable to damage or copying.

A team at Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University have used a ultra-violet laser to sculpt unique holograms with micro-sized features directly onto the surface of metals, making them tamper-proof.

Individual laser pulses melt the surface in an extremely precise way to produce smooth impressions on the metal and by manipulating the laser beam to create specific patterns, holographic structures are produced that can act as security markings for high value products and components.

Researcher Dr Krystian Wlodarczyk said: "The holograms are visible to the naked eye and appear as smooth, shiny textures.

"They're robust to local damage and readable by using a collimated beam from a low-cost, commercially-available laser pointer, so border agencies or consumers won't need expensive technology to check an item's authenticity.

"We've established that we can create the holograms on a variety of metals.

"We're now investigating how to make them even smaller and more efficient and whether we can apply them to other materials.

"Recently, for instance, we have extended the process for use of such holograms on glass."

Dr Wlodarczyk's research was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESPRC) and initial findings have been published in the Journal of Material Processing Technology.