A self-erasing chip for security and anti-counterfeit tech

By | September 28, 2020
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"U" and "M" written with UV light.
This message will self-destruct in seven days, or it can be erased with a flash of blue light. Written with UV light, the letters are marked out by molecules that shrink by storing energy, stretching the atoms of the semiconductor above. This shifts the light emitted by the semiconductor to longer wavelengths, represented in the visible spectrum by yellow on a blue background. (Che-Hsuan Cheng, U-M Excitonics and Photonics Lab)

Self-erasing chips developed at U-M could help stop counterfeit electronics or provide alerts if sensitive shipments are tampered with. They rely on a new material that temporarily stores energy, changing the color of the light it emits. It self-erases in a matter of days, or it can be erased on demand with a flash of blue light.

With a self-erasing bar code printed on the chip inside the device, the owner could get a hint if someone had opened it to secretly install a listening device. Or a bar code could be written and placed on integrated circuit chips or circuit boards, for instance, to prove that they hadn’t been opened or replaced on their journeys. Likewise, if the lifespan of the bar codes was extended, they could be written into devices as hardware analogues of software authorization keys.