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Researchers develop artificial ‘fingerprints’ that can be reset if breached

Researchers develop artificial ‘fingerprints’ that can be reset if breached

An artificial microfingerprints generator that uses cholesteric liquid crystals (CLCs) to generate cryptographic credentials that look similar to fingerprints, and could be reset in the event the data is compromised.

CLCs can self-assemble into complex patterns with unique visual properties, which can be used to create physically unclonable functions (PUF). These resultant PUFs can then be used like a cryptographic key, an artificial fingerprint that is impossible to replicate. In addition to resets, the generator could also be used to create stronger, more secure anti-counterfeiting features such as holograms and RFID tags.

To make the “fingerprints,” researchers apply a high-frequency electric field to microdroplets of a chiral liquid crystal that contains a photoluminescent dye, to reorient the liquid crystal into a unique pattern that looks similar to a fingerprint.

Unlike the topological nature of fingerprints, the texture of the artificially generated fingerprints consists of optical patterns that are visible under a microscope and impossible to duplicate because their generation is completely unpredictable.

In theory, these fingerprints could be used to create a unique label that verifies the authenticity of an item by allowing a user to scan it with an app that then compares the image to ones stored in a database. Additionally, the researchers say they could be used to replace biometrics with a cryptographic credential that can be reset in the event of a data breach.

These types of artificial fingerprints are not yet ready for commercialization. While the credentials are not complex to create, the production procedure for fingerprint labels, “is still time-consuming,” said Mauro Bruno, a researcher at the University of Calabria involved in the development of the technique, speaking to Advanced Science News.

“The stability and robustness of the device has been successfully tested, but the use of an external power supply to light the label represents the main hurdle to overcome,” he said. “At the moment, we are working on materials to switch from an electroluminescent device to a label based only on fluorescent materials.”

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