Implanted atoms create a unique identifier to authenticate electronics

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Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the United States have developed a method that could be used to authenticate electronic components at any point in the supply chain.

The low-cost process relies on creating unique, non-duplicable identification tags by modifying the electronic structure of silicon.

These tags could be embedded into a device during the manufacturing process and easily authenticated by anyone receiving the device, ensuring a secure supply chain for critical system components, according to the team.

Scientists used a well-known technique called doping, in which small groups of “foreign” atoms of a different element than the device to be marked are implanted just below the surface – in this case embedded aluminum atoms. in a silicon lattice in a random pattern.

The implanted atoms alter the electrical properties of the upper layer without damaging it, creating a unique tag that can be read by an electronic scanner.

The use of doping to create electronic labels for devices is not a new idea. However, the NIST technique – which uses the sharp tip of an atomic force microscope (AFM) probe to implant atoms – is simpler, less expensive, and requires less equipment than other doping techniques using lasers. or an ion beam, according to NIST researcher Yaw. Obeng.

“We put a sticker on every device except that the sticker is electronic and no two are the same because in each case the amount and pattern of dopant atoms is different,” said Obeng, who also noted that the technology is less damaging. than other methods.

When a scanner directs a beam of radio waves at the device, electrically modified networks respond by emitting a single radio frequency corresponding to their impedance.

Counterfeit devices could be easily identified because they wouldn’t respond to the scanner the same way, although researchers don’t need to refine the technique before it’s ready for large-scale use.

The work was presented at the International Integrated Circuit Design and Technology Conference in Dresden, Germany, last week.


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