The ultimate defense against hackers may be just a few atoms thick

  • The next generation of electronic hardware security made of a low-cost nanomaterial with the highest possible level of structural randomness.
  • Randomness is highly desirable for constructing the security primitives that encrypt and thereby secure computer hardware and data physically, rather than by programming.
  • They are made into spatial randomness in atomically thin Molybdenum disulfide (MoS2).
  • These materials are grew into nanomaterial in layers, each roughly one million times thinner than a human hair. By varying the thickness of each layer, tuned the size and type of energy band structure, which in turn affects the properties of the material.
  • At monolayer thickness, this material has the optical properties of a semiconductor that emits light, but at multilayer, the properties change, and the material no longer emits light.
  • By tuning the material growth process, the resulting thin film is speckled with randomly occurring regions that alternately emit or do not emit light.
  • When exposed to light, this pattern translates into a one-of-a-kind authentication key that could secure hardware components at minimal cost.
  • This beautiful random light patterns of MoS2 when he realized it would be highly valuable as a cryptographic primitive.
  • This represents the first physically unclonable security primitive created using this nanomaterial. Typically embedded in integrated circuits, physically unclonable security primitives protect or authenticate hardware or digital information.
  • They interact with a stimulus  in this case, light to produce a unique response that can serve as a cryptographic key or means of authentication.
  • In future in which similar nanomaterial-based security primitives can be inexpensively produced at scale and applied to a chip or other hardware component, much like a postage stamp to a letter.
  • No metal contacts are required, and production could take place independently of the chip fabrication process.

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