Each transistor has its own quantum signature, which can be used as a unique identifier.

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Quantum fingerprint

Uninitiated people believe that electric current flows exactly the same through the same components of our electronic devices. However, at the quantum level, an electric current can be depicted as a current stream, the surface of which is covered with thin ripples that arise due to the repulsion of electrons and other quantum phenomena in "bottlenecks" or places of defects that occur in the structure of components at the production stage. Such quantum effects, in which single electrons are involved, lead to minor changes in the current-voltage characteristics of the devices, which are unique to each device "quantum fingerprint".

Since the material from which the transistors are made is artificially filled with defects distributed in a rather random manner, the number, location and energy levels of all the bottlenecks are radically different for each transistor. And recently, a team of researchers from Toshiba Corporation and the RIKEN Research Institute, Japan, demonstrated that quantum “fingerprints” of transistors can be detected using fairly common image recognition algorithms that can be used to identify each instance of a semiconductor chip. This, in turn, can be used as keys in the Internet of Things, in security systems, data protection, etc.

In a system developed by scientists, a quantum “fingerprint” is a mathematical function that cannot be physically copied or repeated (physically unclonable function, PUF). This function is a reflection of the natural physical deviations of the transistor parameters from some ideal values. Each transistor retains the basic form of its PUF function throughout its entire life cycle, despite some degradation associated with the effects of aging.

As mentioned above, to identify the parameters of the PUF function, the researchers used image recognition algorithms, which in most cases produced images that schematically resemble faceted diamonds. Because of this, the PUF functions are called "Coulomb diamonds", and the shape of the virtual Coulomb diamond crystal, the number and location of vertices, faces and planes, is a reflection of the number of bottlenecks in the transistor structure and their characteristics.

One of the advantages of this method is that it can be used to obtain a quantum fingerprint for a chip containing more than a billion transistors, as well as for individual transistors sealed into the device’s printed circuit board. However, in this "barrel of honey", as usual, has its own "fly in the ointment." At present, determining the shape of the Coulomb Diamond is possible only at a cryogenic temperature of 1.5 degrees above the point of absolute zero. But scientists have already developed a new method that allows you to do the same thing at room temperature, but it still requires the use of very expensive production methods.

In their future research, Japanese scientists plan to search and study other methods of taking quantum "fingerprints" from transistors. One of the promising methods in this direction is to measure the behavior parameters of qubits, into which electrons trapped in bottleneck traps briefly turn into. Unique and random places of occurrence of such qubits will give a fingerprint that is unique for each transistor, which will allow using this effect in quantum computers, with the help of which new security systems and data protection systems will be created.

Keywords:
Transistor, Chip, Structure, Defect, Electron, Current, Parameters, Signature, Fingerprint, Finger, Identification

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Dana K. Park
My name is Dana K. Park and I am the author of the blog sks-comp.ru My team and I make guides to different countries based on personal experience. At the moment I live in Russia and Israel, but I am constantly moving to different countries.

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