Sintered, translucent ceramic microbeads, preferably alumina, titania, zirconia, yttria, zirconium phosphate, or yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) are doped with one or more optically active species. The beads may be added to substances such as explosives in order to create a distinctive optical signature that identifies a manufacturer, lot number, etc. in the event of the need for forensic analysis. Because the beads have a generally spherical surface, the radius of curvature provides an additional distinguishing characteristic by which a particular sample may be identified. The beads could also be formulated into paints if needed to create distinctive optical signatures for camouflage, decoys, or other countermeasures and could also be applied as a dust to track the movement of personnel, vehicles, etc.
This invention was made with Government support under Contract No. DE-AC05-00OR22725 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to UT-Battelle, LLC, and the Government has certain rights in this invention.