The US Military is taking a cue from Snapchat and creating chips that self-destruct

Screen Shot 2015 09 15 at 4.40.56 PMYouTube/ News of GadgetsXerox PARC’s computer chip explodes in 10 seconds.

The US military will soon have a new tool to help keep confidential information out of the wrong hands.

DARPA sponsored engineers from Xerox PARC recently showed off a computer chip they created that self-destructs on demand in just 10 seconds.

Made of Gorilla Glass, which is used on the displays of many smartphones, the chip shatters to oblivion when triggered with heat, a mechanical switch or radio signal.

Since creating the Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) program in 2013, DARPA has becoming increasing interested in creating electronic devices that will self-destruct on command.

The interest in self-destructing electronics highlight an increasing vigilance to make sure classified information is not left on the battlefield where it may fall in the wrong hands. Electronics used for purposes like remote sensing and communications are becoming increasingly prevalent in the military, making it harder to recover and destroy all of them.

VAPR “seeks electronic systems capable of physically disappearing in a controlled, triggerable manner,” the DARPA website says. DARPA budgeted $US9.6 million in fiscal year 2014 for applied research in the VAPR program, and slated $US5.5 million for the 2015 fiscal year as well.

“It is nearly impossible to track and recover every device, resulting in their unintended accumulation in the environment, potential recovery and use by unauthorised individuals, and compromise of intellectual property and technological advantage,” the VAPR website says.

DARPA awarded IBM $US3.45 million in 2014 to design chips that will shatter when triggered, according to an Information Week article, but the VAPR program is looking beyond computer chips as well.

DARPA awarded BAE Systems Advanced Technologies — a company that specialises in defence, security and aerospace — $US4.53 million under the VAPR program. The award is meant to fund the creation systems similar to off-the-shelf electronics that are “capable of physically disappearing in a controlled, triggerable manner,” says the initial award proposal.

In addition to exploding computer chips, other possible future inventions include electronic implants that monitor health in the field that can then resorb into the body. Or a network of sensors distributed in the environment that provide data before decomposing naturally.

Check out demo of the tiny device exploding below. 


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