September NDnano network meeting features research on Benjamin Franklin’s 18th century money-making techniques

Khachatur Manukyan

The first NDnano network meeting of the fall semester featured Khachatur Manukyan, associate research professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He recapped an investigation to characterize money and better understand money-printing techniques developed and used by Benjamin Franklin in the 1700s. This research was funded by a 2017 award from the Notre Dame Research Internal Grants Program.

Dr. Manukyan led a team of graduate students, undergraduates, faculty, and staff that analyzed the inks, papers, and fibers used in more than 600 notes printed by Franklin and a network of partnered printers. The study also included counterfeit notes. All the notes used by Manukyan and his team were available to the researchers through the Hesburgh Libraries’ Rare Books and Special Collections.

Dr. Manukyan discussed the motivation of the research, provided a glimpse into the history of producing money, reviewed techniques employed by Franklin to outwit counterfeiters, shared the challenges of analyzing centuries-old notes, and reviewed the results of their seven-year study. His talk showcased the extensive analysis capabilities housed on-campus, including the Nuclear Science Laboratory, the Center for Environmental Science and Technology, the Integrated Imaging Facility, the Materials Characterization Facility, and the Molecular Structure Facility.

The mid-July Notre Dame News feature is a great recap of this team’s work!

The science employed in the team's analysis and their results are captured in their article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "Multiscale analysis of Benjamin Franklin’s innovations in American paper money."

Dr. Manukyan said the work has been covered in more than 150 news outlets in the U.S. and abroad.