Chemical unclonable functions based on operable random DNA pools

Anne M. Luescher, Andreas L. Gimpel, Wendelin J. Stark, Reinhard Heckel, Robert N. Grass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Physical unclonable functions (PUFs) based on unique tokens generated by random manufacturing processes have been proposed as an alternative to mathematical one-way algorithms. However, these tokens are not distributable, which is a disadvantage for decentralized applications. Finding unclonable, yet distributable functions would help bridge this gap and expand the applications of object-bound cryptography. Here we show that large random DNA pools with a segmented structure of alternating constant and randomly generated portions are able to calculate distinct outputs from millions of inputs in a specific and reproducible manner, in analogy to physical unclonable functions. Our experimental data with pools comprising up to >1010 unique sequences and encompassing >750 comparisons of resulting outputs demonstrate that the proposed chemical unclonable function (CUF) system is robust, distributable, and scalable. Based on this proof of concept, CUF-based anti-counterfeiting systems, non-fungible objects and decentralized multi-user authentication are conceivable.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2955
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024


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