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U.S. army funds Mission Impossible 'vanishing' tech

Staff writer ▼ | February 10, 2014
Darpa, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has awarded IBM a $3.5 million contract to work on its Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) project to develop electronics that can self-destruct.
Mission Impossible
Mission ImpossibleDarpa, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has awarded IBM a $3.5 million contract to work on its Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) project to develop electronics that can self-destruct.


It is looking to develop a class of "transient" electronics that can be destroyed by remote control.IBM's proposal that could be used in combat zones involves the use of a radio frequency trigger that could shatter a glass coating on a silicon chip and turn it into powder.

"A trigger, such as a fuse or a reactive metal layer will be used to initiate shattering, in at least one location, on the glass substrate," the US government said in its grant award notice.

Darpa wants to develop large distributed networks of sensors that can collect and transmit data for a limited period and then be destroyed instantly to prevent them falling into enemy hands. VAPR tech could also have applications in medical diagnosis and treatment, Darpa believes, if sensors can be developed that the body can reabsorb.

The Pentagon's research arm also granted $2.1 million to Xerox company, Palo Alto Research Center (Parc), a specialist in bioinformatics and large-area electronics. Its proposed solution is similar to IBM's and relies on the materials being engineered under stress, so that when an electrical signal is received, the circuit crumbles into dust instantly as the stress is released.


 

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