This Page Will Self-Destruct In Five Seconds: DARPA Working On Mission Impossible-Style Vanishing Devices
February 7, 2014

DARPA Developing Self-Destructive Devices

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

The Cold War-era spy series Mission: Impossible began nearly episode with a self-destructing tape recorder and now the United States Department of Defense’s research branch is developing similar technology. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has announced that it launched a program to create electronics that could self-destruct on command.

DARPA is now working with IBM and Xerox-owned PARC to make what was TV fiction a reality.

“Sophisticated electronics can be made at low cost and are increasingly pervasive throughout the battlefield,” DARPA disclosed on its website. “Large numbers can be widely proliferated and used for applications such as distributed remote sensing and communications. However, it is nearly impossible to track and recover every device resulting in unintended accumulation in the environment and potential unauthorized use and compromise of intellectual property and technological advantage.”

DARPA isn’t apparently looking to create spy gizmos worthy of James Bond’s Q Branch – at least not through this particular program. Instead it noted, that “these transient electronics should have performance comparable to commercial-off-the-shelf electronics, but with limited device persistence that can be programmed, adjusted in real-time, triggered, and/or be sensitive to the deployment environment.”

In other words the technology DARPA is looking to develop would seem to run counter to making things more durable for the military. Instead these would be less durable or at least able to physically disappear when needed.

These “transient electronics” will of course have “revolutionary military capabilities,” and this could include sensors that work both indoors and outdoors, and which could provide environmental monitoring over large areas. Unlike the Mission: Impossible tape recorder that simply burnt up, DARPA is working to develop sensors that could decompose in a natural environment and thus be “ecoresorbable.” In this way the sensors could provide critical data for a specified duration, but after time would simply fade away.

Other devices could be used on individuals to aid in continuous health monitoring and/or treatment in the field and these would resorb into the body – or “bioresorbable” as DARPA explains it.

Slash Gear reported that “PARC was given $2.1 million for development of a tech called Disintegration Upon Stress-release Trigger known as DUST.”

This would involve dummy circuits that crumble into small sand-like particles in just a fraction of a second, and this would obviously render the device virtually useless though not be visually discernible.

In addition IBM was given a $3.5-million contract to develop a radio frequency-based trigger that could shatter a thin glass coating, which could also turn a silicon chip into dust.

This contract was reported on the Federal Business Opportunities ( website:

“The goal of the Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) BAA is to develop and establish a basis set of materials, components, integration, and manufacturing capabilities to undergird this new class of electronics. IBM plans is to utilize the property of strained glass substrates to shatter as the driving force to reduce attached CMOS chips into Si and SiO2 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. An external RF signal will be required for this process to be initiated. IBM will explore various schemes to enhance glass shattering and techniques to transfer this into the attached Si CMOS devices.”

Last December Honeywell and SRI International also received awards under the VAPR program, Motherboard reported. This report also noted the SRI project, which has the ominous James Bond sounding “SPECTRE” – that name being the villainous terrorist organization that Bond often fought in the Sean Connery/George Lazenby era.

However, this project doesn’t seem bent on world destruction, as the FBO site noted:

“Stressed Pillar-Engineered CMOS Technology Readied for Evanescence (SPECTRE) silicon/air battery, the SPECTRE battery is a fully transient power supply that, when triggered, becomes unobservable to the human eye. The objective is to (1) design, build, and prove a vanishing silicon/air battery, and (2) transition the proven technology to a semiconductor foundry to yield a deployable, realistic, and scalable power supply for use by DARPA customers.”