Thwarting Counterfeiting with Programmable Hardware

  • By Jennifer Zheng
  • 26 October 2021

Susan FullertonKe Xu, and their colleague, Eric Beckman, recently received a $553,482 NSF grant for their project titled “Ion-Locked Polymorphic Electronics for Hardware Security.” 

Hardware and intellectual property piracy costs the U.S. billions of dollars every year. One promising solution to this issue is polymorphic electronics, or circuits that can be reprogrammed on-the-fly, thereby obscuring their true functionality until they are ready to be used. However, current approaches involve either transistors with fixed polarity, which require the use of many additional devices, or not-fixed polarity, which require a continuous power supply. 

In their project, the team proposed a transistor whose polarity is set during operation by ions in a custom synthesized ion-conductor and for which a constant power supply is not needed to maintain the state. These characteristics will reduce both the number of devices and the energy requirements necessary for altering circuit functionality. A configurable transistor such as this one will be a large step towards creating effective polymorphic electronics to address hardware security and mitigate counterfeiting. 

Congrats Susan and Ke!