5/3/2012 9:35:00 AM
IEEE Spectrum: Plant DNA vs. Counterfeit Chips
Increasingly concerned about counterfeit electronics in its supply chain, the U.S. Department of Defense is attacking the problem on two fronts: It’s cracking down on defense contractors to increase their vigilance, and it’s looking for new technologies to fight the counterfeiters.
A leading new technology in the struggle against counterfeiters comes from an odd source: plants. The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which procures materials and parts for the U.S. military, is working with Applied DNA Sciences, in Stony Brook, N.Y., which has developed a technique that uses plant DNA to authenticate chips and other components. Other industries currently use the technology to authenticate luxury goods, textiles, and currency.
Applied DNA starts with botanical genomic sequences, then scrambles the genetic code using a proprietary technique. It then synthesizes DNA with the scrambled code and incorporates that into a product or its packaging—say, by mixing it with ink and stamping it on a package. Once the DNA mark is applied to a product, users can detect it because it fluoresces under certain light. Products can also be checked by swabbing the DNA mark and sending the sample to Applied DNA, which authenticates the mark using standard genetic-sequencing techniques. Only those with knowledge of the scrambled sequence can verify the mark, making it impossible to fake.