The NIST Wants to Use Atoms to Combat Counterfeit Electronic Components
To combat the uptick in counterfeiters taking advantage of desperate buyers, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has developed a new method for detecting counterfeit electronic components.
The current semiconductor shortage has presented a perfect opportunity for counterfeiters, thus dramatically increasing counterfeiting activity in the supply chain. The desperation of most organizations to find these valuable components has led them to take risks they would’ve never taken in normal market conditions. Organizations are also scrambling for the means to test their components, and test houses are quoting turn-around times of multiple weeks. In the midst of this chaos, the sale of testing equipment used to detect counterfeit electronic components has increased significantly, but the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a potential solution.
The NIST has revealed a prototype that uses atoms to authenticate an item before it leaves a factory. Scientists used a method called “doping”, in which they insert clusters of a foreign atoms of a different element from those in the device just beneath the surface of the device itself. The implant alters the electrical properties of the topmost layer of the device to form a unique label that can be read by an electronic scanner. While “doping” to create electronic labels is not a new idea, the NIST technique uses the tip of an atomic force microscope (AFM) probe to place the atoms. According to NIST researcher Yaw Obeng, this technique has made the process much simpler, less costly, and requires less equipment compared to other doping techniques that use lasers or a beam of ions.
According to the NIST, this secure, unalterable, and inexpensive means of authenticating parts could reduce the need for traditional testing services and reduce the threat of counterfeit parts in the supply chain.
In the meantime, during the early stages of developing and standardizing this method, how can purchasers of electronic components reduce the risk of buying counterfeit parts?
At Aegis Components, our sourcing structure has allowed us to circumvent the threat of counterfeiters in the electronics industry. Our network of suppliers has received over a decade of evaluation and refinement. Our strategically placed locations around the world allow us to visit and audit the headquarters of a company before making a purchasing decision. Additionally, Aegis Components has partners with reputable test houses to provide the appropriate inspection and testing of a part before delivering it to our customers. Our thorough approach to procurement combined with our exceptional logistics structure has allowed us to combat counterfeit electronic components and rival larger distributors in the electronics distribution industry.
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