Quantum fingerprints from graphene flakes
The mass-manufacture of devices that use quantum physics is challenging, as their fundamental properties are sensitive to the smallest variations during fabrication. Consider conduction through a graphene ribbon, as pictured below. The position of impurity atoms, the shape of the sheet’s edges and its interaction with the substrate all influence its properties, making it virtually impossible to produce two devices that operate identically. Whilst this may be a problem for many applications, in the field of security it is surprisingly advantageous. By 2020 the current projection is that there will be over 50 billion connected devices, each requiring a unique identity and a cryptographic key to keep safe any information shared.
In this project you will develop electronic systems using 2D materials that can provide detailed ‘fingerprints’ to uniquely identify the devices they are embedded in. Copying such a device would require precise mapping and faithful reproduction at the atomic level, a task that is practically unfeasible. A patent for this concept was submitted recently, and has passed review successfully (as GB1406002.4).
You will be trained to use state-of-the-art facilities in the Quantum Technology Centre at Lancaster (opened 2014) to test devices that have been modelled and fabricated in Manchester. You will be taught to use nano-fabrication tools to prepare the devices for integration with embedded systems. Working with a GCHQ-backed centre of excellence in cyber security you will verify the degree of uniqueness afforded by the systems produced. The far-reaching goal of this project is for you to commercialise the technology through a spin-out company, Quantum Base, which focuses on quantum security systems.
The project is fully funded through an EPSRC CASE studentship which will pay a stipend at the current RCUK rate (currently £14,057, tax free) with an additional £3,000 per annum top-up provided by an industrial partner. Fees will also be covered.
• QOpto.com – more on the Lancaster group’s research.
• en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_unclonable_function – the classical analogue, which is widely used.