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Sci-Tech

This startup is trying to replace serial numbers with diamond dust

The company got $2.3 million in seed funding from investors like Kleiner Perkins.

diamonds

Diamonds are forever. 

Koichi Yajima / EyeEm

Diamonds might look good on fingers, but you might also find them on hardware soon.

Dust Identity, a startup that's trying to use diamond dust to mark objects, launched on Wednesday and said it has secured $2.3 million in seed funding from investors Kleiner Perkins, New Science Ventures, Angular Ventures and Castle Island Ventures.

"Lack of hardware integrity can have a devastating impact on many levels," said Ophir Gaathon, CEO and co-founder at Dust Identity, in a release. "We help enterprises and governments to prevent hardware tampering and data breaches."

The Boston-based company's tech, Diamond Unclonable Security Tag (DUST), uses an invisible thin layer of coating made of tiny diamonds on the surface of products during the manufacturing stage, which can substitute for serial numbers or a barcode or QR code.

Workers can use optical scanners and a cloud-based data tracking system to ensure products' authenticity. The pattern of the diamond dust in the coating is the key -- it's authentic if a hardware's diamond pattern matches exactly to its stored pattern in the database. Gaathon said nobody can extract information from the coating or copy the diamond patterns. 

This hardware authentication method is an "unclonable and uncompromisable security tracking solution," the startup claims in a release. It isn't expensive either because tons of diamond waste are produced every year, the startup would buy the diamonds that are too small for polishing and make them into nano-diamonds, Gaathon said. Then his team incorporates the diamonds into plastic for coating. 

Born at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dust Identity was founded by Gaathon, Jonathan Hodges and Dirk Englund. It has a team of experts in quantum physics, nanotechnology and cybersecurity. 

When Gaathon and his colleagues worked on using diamonds for building quantum computers, they wondered if diamonds could help authenticate hardwares too. 

"We want to tackle that linkage between data and objects," said Gaathon. "Diamonds are extremely durable. They're made of carbon so they're safe, nontoxic and aren't environmental hazard."

Dust Identity has also participated in several Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) programs. 

First published on Nov. 14, 2:19 p.m. PT.

Updates, Nov. 15, 6:52 a.m. PT: Adds more information from Dr. Ophir Gaathon, CEO and co-founder of Dust Identity.