Spotting fake electronics with microwaves; patent

The University of Missouri in the US has been awarded a US patent on a way to detect counterfeit electronic components using a technique called microwave reflectometry.

The patent notes that electronic devices have a unique electromagnetic signature, created by factors such as the layout of integrated circuits (ICs), the casing material and whether silicon is used in their construction. It describes various ways to detect counterfeits, including irradiating a device with microwaves and comparing the electromagnetic signal reflected back with a reference device. One advantage is that the test can be performed when the component is unpowered.

The approach could sit alongside other techniques used to detect counterfeit electronic components, such as physical inspection for size discrepancies, X-ray inspection, electrical testing, and decapsulation – using acids to reveal the inner workings of an IC – although the latter isn’t ideal as it destroys the sample.

The abstract of the patent appears below:

Microwave reflectometry for physical inspections

Abstract: Utilizing microwave reflections to compare a reference device with counterfeit and/or aging devices under test. The reflection from the device under test varies based on certain properties, which results in each device having a unique and intrinsic electromagnetic signature. Comparisons of the electromagnetic signature of the device under test to the electromagnetic signature of a reference device enable evaluating the acceptability of the device under test.

Patent No. 10,921,264

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