As companies increasingly rely on chips that are being manufactured from places all around the world, security is an ever growing concern, as malicious circuits (i.e., Trojans) can be inserted during the fabrication process.  Hardware Trojans are either designed to disclose secret information or access keys, to temporarily disable a system, or to destroy a it.  These Trojan circuits are of particular concern in medical and military applications.  This technology uses the placement of small on-chip temperature sensors throughout a chip to sense power dissipation in nearby circuits, thereby revealing activity of any Trojan circuits.


Key Benefits of this technology:


o Compared to other on-chip power monitoring circuits, the temperature sensors are not electrically connected to the supply voltage path or any internal nodes of the functional circuits. Therefore, the approach avoids the performance degradation problems associated with monitoring sensitive high speed digital circuits and high-frequency analog circuits.


o Local power dissipations from numerous locations on the chip can be monitored without requiring a large number of additional pins or exposing the surface of the chip.


o A single control unit contains the post-amplification circuitry for the temperature-sensing devices, saving chip area by allowing to serially route the outputs from the temperature sensors to a central core.


o The on-chip detection system circumvents the need and cost of external measurement equipment, which can also enable periodic checking throughout the lifetime of a chip


o The temperature sensors can be placed into unused areas of a chip at the end of the design cycle, minimizing the area

overhead and impact on the design flow.


Development Status:


Measurement results with the temperature sensors have demonstrated that they can detect power dissipation of circuits in the typical signal path, where the desired circuit becomes the device under test. On-chip temperature sensors have not yet been used for detection of Trojan circuits, and we are currently looking to partner with a company to continue this work.

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Mark Saulich
Associate Director of Commercialization
Northeastern University
Marvin Onabajo
Yong-Bin Kim