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A True Random-Number Generator Built From Carbon Nanotubes

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A cylindrical carbon nanotube.

Researchers have built a true random number generator that they say could improve the security of printed and flexible electronics.

Credit: istockphoto

Researchers at Northwestern University say they have built a true random number generator from a static random-access memory (SRAM) cell printed with a specialized carbon nanotube ink.

The cell generates random bits by harnessing fluctuations in thermal noise, using a pair of inverters to record 1s with the application of external voltages when the power is cut.

Once the SRAM cell is powered again and the external voltages turned off, one inverter randomly switches its digit to be opposite its counterpart again.

"If we keep resetting the cell and have the thermal noise force it to take a stand, the series of bits that come out will be a random strand of 1s and 0s," says Northwestern professor Mark Hersam. His group has generated 61,411 bits with the device.

Hersam says the nanotube generator could be printed directly onto packaging with standard inkjet printers to encrypt data or confirm that products have not been tampered with.

From IEEE Spectrum
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