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Self-Erasing Chips could Enhance Security and Curb Counterfeits

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Scientists from the University of Michigan are experimenting with self-erasing chips that make it easier to tell when an electronic device has been tampered with.

The self-erasing chips are capable of sending alerts whenever someone tampers with a sensitive shipment.

The chips were built with a new material that temporarily stores up energy reserves and emits a different color of light as it does so. The chip will erase itself within days using blue light.

At the moment, it is difficult to tell whether counterfeiters have tampered with an electronic device. The device may still operate normally but will be providing a third party with information, according to Assistant Professor Parag Deotare.

A self-erasing bar code on the chip will enable the owner to know when someone opens it and installs a listening device, for example. Bar codes on circuit boards and integrated circuit chips can provide evidence that the items were not tampered with in transit.

The bar codes can also be built to last longer so that they are written into the device for example as software authorization keys.

Researchers laid a three atom-thick semiconductor on a layer of molecules on azobenzenes which shrinks when it comes into contact with Ultra Violet light. These molecules will in turn pull on the semiconductor so that it emits light in longer wavelengths.

You can only read the message when you are looking at it under a specific kind of light. Researchers are also interested in this material as a medium for transmitting secret messages. The message will self-destruct after a while, but it can also be illuminated with blue light which will erase it.

Upon stretching, azobenzene gradually dissipates its stored energy over 7 days as long as it remains in the dark. When exposed to light, this period becomes shorter, and the erased chip can be used to record a different bar code or message.

The semiconductor is very much like nanomaterial but it can emit light in specific frequencies.

Jinsang Kim, a professor of material science and engineering designed the material together with Da Seul Yang, a doctoral student of macromolecular science and engineering. They coated it with the molecules by floating a layer of Nano molecules in water and dropping a silicon wafer into the water so that it comes out coated with the molecules.

Next, the researchers will be working to create a similar material that preserves the message intact for longer than a week and this will improve its use for anti-counterfeit measures.

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research is funding the research, and the University of Michigan is pursuing patents and commercial partners to take this technology to the market.

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Australia Forces Tech Firms to Pay News Providers for Content

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Facebook and Google will now have to pay news outlets in Australia for their content, after Australian legislators passed a law requiring tech firms to pay for content from news outlets within Australia.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook was party to discussions on the amendments to the laws.

During the negotiations, Facebook blocked users in Australia from using Facebook to share news. The service was restored on Tuesday following the agreements.

Per the new changes, Australia will exempt Facebook from the code if Facebook signs enough agreements with local news outlets to compensate them for news content.

All the tech firms affected by the new code have one month to achieve compliance. The amendment satisfied Rod Simms, who prepared the code in his role as competition regulator. Sims believed that the law would serve to reduce the imbalance between news outlets in Australia and tech giants Facebook and Google.

“All signs are good,” Sims explained. “The purpose of the code is to address the market power that clearly Google and Facebook have. Google and Facebook need media, but they don’t need any particular media company, and that meant media companies couldn’t do commercial deals.”

Australians were not too excited about Facebooks ban on sharing news because government as well as non-profit pages were also affected. Even public health organizations crucial to keeping people informed about the Covid-19 pandemic were not spared.

The effect of the new law will be to institute a groundbreaking protocol for handling disputes in Australia. Other governments will be keenly following the new process.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that Bing would replace Google’s search engine if Google opted to pull out of Australia in protest of the new rules. Morrison even spoke personally to Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft to discuss the scenario.

A conglomerate of 161 regional newspapers in Australia known as County Press Australia is apprehensive that smaller publications in smaller towns may not benefit from the deals committing tech firms to pay for news content.

Sims said he expected platforms Google and Facebook to first make deals with businesses in large city, but that all journalism outlets would benefit eventually.

“I don’t see any reason why anybody should doubt that all journalism will benefit,” he said.

“These things take time. Google and Facebook don’t have unlimited resources to go around talking to everybody. I think this has got a long way to play out,” he added.

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Scientists fold the Smallest Microchips ever from Graphene

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New developments from physicists from the University of Sussex could lead to faster electronic gadgets. The physicists have created tiny microchip-like objects using ‘nano-origami.’ They foresee phones as well as computers operating many thousand times faster.

The researchers worked with 2D materials, including graphene. They used structural defects within the materials to build the microchips.

These defects affect the properties of the materials, both nano-mechanical and electronic.

The researchers pinpointed the effects of defects like grain boundaries, collapsed wrinkles, and folded wrinkles using Raman mapping and atomic force microscopy.

Graphene acts as a transistor when some distortions are folded into graphene. Transistors are the basic ingredient of electronics. When a graphene strip is folded like that it acts like a microchip.

The graphene strip in question is around 100 times tinier than normal microchips.

Lead researcher Dr. Manoj Tripathi explains the mechanism: “Instead of having to add foreign materials into a device, we’ve shown we can create structures from graphene and other 2D materials simply by adding deliberate kinks into the structure. By making this sort of corrugation we can create a smart electronic component like a transistor or a logic gate.”

The technique relies on Moore’s Law, a law which stipulates that the total sum of transistors within an integrated circuit doubles every two years.

Academics and leaders in the industry have warned that Moore’s law may not necessarily apply for transistors similar in size to silicon chips.

Graphene is a material that provides a possible alternative to silicon and can help to conserve Moore’s law. The researchers are the first to create a microchip using folded graphene.

Said Professor Alan Dalton: “We’re mechanically creating kinks in a layer of graphene. It’s a bit like nano-origami. Using these nanomaterials will make our computer chips smaller and faster. It is absolutely critical that this happens as computer manufacturers are now at the limit of what they can do with traditional semiconducting technology. Ultimately, this will make our computers and phones thousands of times faster in the future.”

“This kind of technology – ‘straintronics’ using nanomaterials as opposed to electronics – allows space for more chips inside any device. Everything we want to do with computers, to speed them up, can be done by crinkling graphene like this.”

Now the researchers are hopeful for further developments in sustainable technology because this process does not require additional materials and can go on at room temperature. It saves energy.

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AMD Acquires Xilinx for $35 Billion

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AMD has finally confirmed that this week it will be acquiring FPGA maker Xilinx for $35 billion. Xilinx makes FPGA or Field Programmable Gate Array chips. Rumor had it that AMD was buying Xilinx for $30 billion.

FPGA chips can be reconfigured for a wide variety of specialized tasks. These chips are in high demand within the automotive industry, cellular base stations, and other vertical markets. They are programmed to carry out specific tasks.

To analysts, the move means that AMD is boosting its Artificial Intelligence capability to keep up with competitor Nvidia in working with Machine Learning as well as Inference.

According to Semico Research, Xilinx’ Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence capabilities will be a boost for AMD as it moves into AI and ML.

AMD will be in a position to diversify and penetrate new markets that they are yet to get into and which would require massive investments. These are markets like Telcom, Industrial, and Automotive.

Both AMD and Xilinks had invested heavily in their data centers, and the new acquisition means that AMD is in a better position to compete with Nvidia.

Better Leadership

The deal reflects the steady growth of AMD stock from $2 five years ago to $78.88. The company is worth $100 billion.

In going for an all-stock deal, the company has avoided taking on debt which can potentially harm the company.

AMDA is following the example of Intel which acquired Altera in 2015 for $16.7 billion. Altera was the top competitor for Xilinx before the acquisition; which did not turn out well for Intel, due to leadership issues.

The coming together of Xilinx and AMDA is a unification of two companies that can easily complement each other’s strong points.
The deal is the fruition of years of talks between the two companies. The Xilinx leader will remain on board after the merger.

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