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Physical unclonable functions generated through chemical methods for anti-counterfeiting

Abstract

The counterfeiting of goods has important economic implications and is also a threat to health and security. Incorporating anti-counterfeiting tags with physical unclonable functions (PUFs) into products is a promising solution for their authentication. PUFs are unique random physical patterns of taggants that cannot be copied and must be fabricated by a stochastic process that affords a large number of robust PUF tags. A PUF tag has a physical pattern that, if read with an appropriate analytical tool, can be recorded and stored. The PUF tag is then the ‘key’, whereas the stored pattern is the ‘lock’. This combination forms PUF keys that provide unbreakable encryption and combat counterfeiting. The stochastic assembly of physical patterns made from taggants exhibiting particular molecular properties is thus an excellent approach to designing new PUF keys.

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Figure 1: Clonable anti-counterfeiting tags used in a euro banknote.
Figure 2: An optical PUF key.
Figure 3: Encoding capacity of a 100 unit PUF key in demonstrated PUF systems.
Figure 4: Physical unclonable function keys.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank Villum Fonden for support.

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Correspondence to Thomas Just Sørensen.

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The authors have filed a patent application describing an optical authentication system based on phyical unclonable functions. The new system is unrelated to the content of this Review although related to the area.

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Glossary

Anti-counterfeiting systems

Systems comprising anti-counterfeiting tags, the means of authenticating the tags and specific points in the supply chain in which the authenticity of the products is confirmed by reading and validating the anti-counterfeiting tags.

Anti-counterfeiting tags

Physical marks that are placed on or inside products to ensure their authenticity. The nature of the mark must ensure that the tag can be read and validated in the anti-counterfeiting system.

Anti-counterfeiting methods

Initiatives undertaken by goods manufacturers to prevent the sale of counterfeit products. These include tagging genuine products with anti-counterfeiting tags.

Chemical anti-counterfeiting tag

A physical mark in or on an anti-counterfeiting tag that is based on the readout of a physical–chemical property.

PUF key

A physical object (the PUF tag) that carries a physical unclonable function (PUF) and the response (the PUF pattern), which has been recorded in a list of PUF keys (a database).

Stochastic process

A random process used to generate a random pattern in contrast to a pattern obtained from deterministic approaches.

PUF system

An anti-counterfeiting system based on physical unclonable functions (PUFs) that differs from regular anti-counterfeiting systems because it requires a record of all the PUF keys.

Encoding capacity

The number of data points a data storage system can carry. Here, it refers to the number of all the possible different physical unclonable functions produced when using a specific anti-counterfeiting system.

Taggant

An entity that produces a specific response and that can be a part of an anti-counterfeiting tag. Selected taggants can be used in a stochastic process to make random patterns.

Base number

The number of distinct responses within a single pixel in a tag (for example, in a binary system the base number is 2, because the taggant is either present (1) or not present (0)).

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Arppe, R., Sørensen, T. Physical unclonable functions generated through chemical methods for anti-counterfeiting. Nat Rev Chem 1, 0031 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41570-017-0031

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41570-017-0031

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