Plant DNA vs. Counterfeit Chips

A genetic mark might help keep counterfeit components out of the electronics supply chain

3 min read
Photo of Applied DNA Sciences chip.
Real Deal: Applied DNA Sciences uses a genetic marker to authenticate chips and other products.
Photo: Applied DNA Sciences

3 May 2012—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.

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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.


If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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