Deep-Learning-Based Digitization of Protein-Self-Assembly to Print Biodegradable Physically Unclonable Labels for Device Security

Micromachines (Basel). 2023 Aug 28;14(9):1678. doi: 10.3390/mi14091678.


The increasingly pervasive problem of counterfeiting affects both individuals and industry. In particular, public health and medical fields face threats to device authenticity and patient privacy, especially in the post-pandemic era. Physical unclonable functions (PUFs) present a modern solution using counterfeit-proof security labels to securely authenticate and identify physical objects. PUFs harness innately entropic information generators to create a unique fingerprint for an authentication protocol. This paper proposes a facile protein self-assembly process as an entropy generator for a unique biological PUF. The posited image digitization process applies a deep learning model to extract a feature vector from the self-assembly image. This is then binarized and debiased to produce a cryptographic key. The NIST SP 800-22 Statistical Test Suite was used to evaluate the randomness of the generated keys, which proved sufficiently stochastic. To facilitate deployment on physical objects, the PUF images were printed on flexible silk-fibroin-based biodegradable labels using functional protein bioinks. Images from the labels were captured using a cellphone camera and referenced against the source image for error rate comparison. The deep-learning-based biological PUF has potential as a low-cost, scalable, highly randomized strategy for anti-counterfeiting technology.

Keywords: biodegradable label; deep learning; device security; diffusion-limited aggregation; physically unclonable function; silk protein.

Grants and funding