DARPA has released photos of what its anti-counterfeit electronics chip might look like.

The black dots in these photos show just what DARPA's Supply Chain Hardware Integrity of Electronics Defense (SHIELD) program is aiming for: Semiconductor chiplets — the size of a dust speck — that will enable verification that electronic chips are the genuine article and not counterfeited, cloned or otherwise doctored. The chiplets, or "dielets," in the photos are dummies created by DARPA-funded researchers to learn how to handle such small components.

If the SHIELD program proceeds as expected, "each of these dielets will host up to 100,000 transistors and have features and functions remarkable for their scale, among them two-way radio communication, on-board encryption, an energy harvesting function that casts away the need for a battery, and passive sensors for tamper-detection — all the while consuming less than 50 microwatts and costing the equivalent of the portion of a penny occupied by Lincoln's head, that is, a fraction of a cent," DARPA said.

"We are on track to build the world's smallest highly integrated computer chip," said DARPA Program Manager Kerry Bernstein. "If we succeed, then an untrained operator at any place along the supply chain will be able to interrogate the authenticity of any component used by the Defense Department or in the commercial sector, and get high-confidence results back immediately, on site, securely and essentially for free."