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KAIST research team develops a forgery prevention technique using salmon DNA​
View : 2170 Date : 2023-06-08 Writer : PR Office

The authenticity scandal that plagued the artwork “Beautiful Woman” by Kyung-ja Chun for 30 years shows how concerns about replicas can become a burden to artists, as most of them are not experts in the field of anti-counterfeiting. To solve this problem, artist-friendly physical unclonable functions (PUFs) based on optical techniques instead of electronic ones, which can be applied immediately onto artwork through brushstrokes are needed.


On May 23, a KAIST research team led by Professor Dong Ki Yoon in the Department of Chemistry revealed the development of a proprietary technology for security and certification using random patterns that occur during the self-assembly of soft materials.


With the development of the Internet of Things in recent years, various electronic devices and services can now be connected to the internet and carry out new innovative functions. However, counterfeiting technologies that infringe on individuals’ privacy have also entered the marketplace.


The technique developed by the research team involves random and spontaneous patterns that naturally occur during the self-assembly of two different types of soft materials, which can be used in the same way as human fingerprints for non-replicable security. This is very significant in that even non-experts in the field of security can construct anti-counterfeiting systems through simple actions like drawing a picture. 


The team developed two unique methods. The first method uses liquid crystals. When liquid crystals become trapped in patterned substrates, they induce the symmetrical destruction of the structure and create a maze-like topology (Figure 1). The research team defined the pathways open to the right as 0 (blue), and those open to the left as 1 (red), and confirmed that the structure could be converted into a digital code composed of 0’s and 1’s that can serve as a type of fingerprint through object recognition using machine learning. This groundbreaking technique can be utilized by non-experts, as it does not require complex semiconductor patterns that are required by existing technology, and can be observed through the level of resolution of a smartphone camera. In particular, this technique can reconstruct information more easily than conventional methods that use semiconductor chips.


Security technology using the maze made up of magnetically-assembled structures formed on a substrate patterned with liquid crystal materials

< Figure 1. Security technology using the maze made up of magnetically-assembled structures formed on a substrate patterned with liquid crystal materials. >


The second method uses DNA extracted from salmon. The DNA can be dissolved in water and applied with a brush to induce bulking instability, which forms random patterns similar to a zebra’s stripes. Here, the patterns create ridge endings and bifurcation, which are characteristics in fingerprints, and these can also be digitalized into 0’s and 1’s through machine learning. The research team applied conventional fingerprint recognition technology to this patterning technique and demonstrated its use as an artificial fingerprint. This method can be easily carried out using a brush, and the solution can be mixed into various colors and used as a new security ink.


Technology to produce security ink using DNA polymers extracted from salmon

< Figure 2. Technology to produce security ink using DNA polymers extracted from salmon >


This new security technology developed by the research team uses only simple organic materials and requires basic manufacturing processes, making it possible to enhance security at a low cost. In addition, users can produce patterns in the shapes and sizes they want, and even if the patterns are made in the same way, their randomness makes each individual pattern different. This provides high levels of security and gives the technique enhanced marketability.


Professor Dong Ki Yoon said, “These studies have taken the randomness that naturally occurs during self-assembly to create non-replicable patterns that can act like human fingerprints.” He added, “These ideas will be the cornerstone of technology that applies the many randomities that exist in nature to security systems.”


The two studies were published in the journal Advanced Materials under the titles 1Planar Spin Glass with Topologically-Protected Mazes in the Liquid Crystal Targeting for Reconfigurable Micro Security Media” and “2Paintable Physical Unclonable Function Using DNAon May 6 and 5, respectively.

Author Information: 1Geonhyeong Park, Yun-Seok Choi, S. Joon Kwon*, and Dong Ki Yoon*/ 2Soon Mo Park†, Geonhyeong Park†, Dong Ki Yoon*: †co-first authors, *corresponding author


This research was funded by the Center for Multiscale Chiral Architectures and supported by the Ministry of Science and ICT-Korea Research Foundation, BRIDGE Convergent Research and Development Program, the Running Together Project, and the Samsung Future Technology Development Program.


the schematic animation of the process of Blues (0) and Reds (1) forming the PUF by exploring the maze

< Figure 1-1. A scene from the schematic animation of the process of Blues (0) and Reds (1) forming the PUF by exploring the maze. From "Planar Spin Glass with Topologically-Protected Mazes in the Liquid Crystal Targeting for Reconfigurable Micro Security Media" by Geonhyeong Park, Yun-Seok Choi, S. Joon Kwon, Dong Ki Yoon. https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.202303077 >


 A schematic diagram of the formation of digital fingerprints formed using the DNA ink

< Figure 2-1. A schematic diagram of the formation of digital fingerprints formed using the DNA ink. From "Paintable Physical Unclonable Function Using DNA" by Soon Mo Park, Geonhyeong Park, Dong Ki Yoon. https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.202302135 >



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