You won't be able to take this key to the local locksmith for a duplicate. Lockheed Martin Corporation (Bethesda, MD) inventor Christian Adams has developed a nanostructured lock and key mechanism that is virtually impossible to unlock without the original key.
The nanostructured lock includes a sensor detecting friction between first and second nanostructured surfaces and a controller receiving output from the sensor and comparing the same to stored values. Also a method for activating or deactivating a lock includes providing a first nanostructured surface, causing a second nanostructured surface to frictionally interact with the first nanostructured surface, sensing the interaction with a sensor, the sensor producing an output signal, and via a controller comparing the sensor output signal to a reference signal. Lockheed earned U.S. Patent 7,667,570 for its nanostructured key.
The invention relates to a key and lock mechanism employing the frictional interaction of a plurality of surfaces having nanostructures disposed thereon, a phenomenon first reported in Project # 4582.1, "Friction reduction and control via nanopatterning", Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland (April 2003).
Previously, locks have been susceptible to unauthorized tampering. The chief manner in which unauthorized persons have gained access to these locks is by using a device which mimics a key to the lock. For example, it has been known for quite some time how to pick standard tumbler type locks by using one or more small pick-like devices. An unauthorized person can also easily make a copy of the original key by simply taking it to any local hard-ware store.
The key-card locks, which have also become common, typically employ a magnetic strip. The magnetic strip is programmed with a particular sequence which a pre-programmed electronic lock will recognize. Due to their common usage, these cards are now easily copied through the use of any commercially available magnetic key programming unit.
Sensitive data and secured access points which employ the previously described locks are at risk for unauthorized access. Unauthorized access to the data and items "secured" by such locks can have extremely negative and even lethal effects.
There is thus a present need for a lock mechanism which utilizes a key which is exceedingly difficult to reproduce. There is also a need for a lock mechanism which is virtually impossible to deactivate without the original key. Lockheed Martin's nanostructured lock is the answer.
The nanostructured lock and key mechanism includes: a sensor detecting friction between first and second nanostructured surfaces; and a controller receiving output from the sensor and comparing same to stored values. In the preferred embodiment, an amplifier is placed between the sensor and the controller. The first surface is preferably disposed on an element which is fixedly secured within an enclosure, and the second surface is preferably disposed on a structure which is not fixedly secured within an enclosure.
The sensor preferably comprises a tribometer, and detects friction between engaging features with a feature size of less than or equal to approximately 4 microns in pitch and 1 micron in depth, most preferably approximately 3 in pitch and 0.5 microns in depth. The first and second surfaces can also be rotatably positionable with respect to one another, wherein the controller requires a particular sequence of engagements of the first and second surfaces at a plurality of angles. The controller can also require engagement of both the second and one or more additional surfaces.