Darpa funded the research on the DUST Self-destruct chip

Pierluigi Paganini September 16, 2015

DARPA Vanishing Programmable Resources Program funded the research on a Self-destruct chip,which is capable of shattering on demand into thousands of pieces.

Engineers at Xerox PARC have designed a prototype chip capable of self-destructing, it is named DUST, or Disintegration Upon Stress-Release Trigger. If t you are thinking that such kind of things can exclusive of action movies you are wrong, the researchers at Xerox PARC believe that their integrated self-destruct chip could represent the ideal solution for the storage of high-sensitive data, including the encryption keys. Of course, let’s think of the application of such kind of technology in military and intelligence sectors.

The potential applications of the DUST self-destructing chip include remote sensing or battlefield communications kit, and of course drones.

The engineers used a Gorilla Glass substrate to fabricate the innovative self-destruct chip, which is capable of shattering on demand into thousands of pieces making impossible the reconstruction.

Gorilla Glass is a brand of specialized toughened glass developed and manufactured by the Corning firm, it is typically used as a tough glass in smartphones and smart watches displays due to its small thickness and high damage resistance.

The research on a self-destruct chip was funded by the US Darpa, which invested $2M as reported by Xeros PARC:

PARC, a Xerox company, today announced it has signed an up to $2 million contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop and demonstrate PARC’s disappearing electronics platform (called DUST), with intriguing implications for a variety of military, ecological, and commercial interests.

DUST, or Disintegration Upon Stress-Release Trigger, is a technology that allows electronic devices using full-performance microchips to be disintegrated on command, leaving only tiny fragments that are invisible to the human eye. The DUST technology builds on PARC’s cutting-edge capabilities in advanced manufacturing, novel electronics, and smart devices.” states the announcement published by the company.

self-destruct chip

DARPA funded the Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) program with the goal to create a new generation electronic systems capable of physically disappearing in a controlled, triggerable manner.

During the demo Xerox PARC made at the DARPA the glass was stressed close to breaking point by heat. The generation of additional heat by inducing a small current across a resistor allowed to shatter the self-destructing IC into thousands of pieces.

During the demo, the researchers used a photo-diode to trigger the self-destruction, but experts explained that it could be easily replaced with a radio signal.

“Imagine being able to cover a large area, like the ocean floor, with billions of tiny sensors to ‘hear’ what is happening within the earth’s crust, and have them quickly disintegrate into, essentially, sand, leaving no trace and not harming the planet or sea life,” explained Sean Garner, PARC researcher on the DUST project. “I’m looking forward to working with other scientists and companies that can help us explore cool new ways to deploy DUST that we may not have even considered.”

DUST sensors could be used also to monitor wide areas during natural disasters as reported on the announcement.

“In the world of environmental science, DUST sensors could be distributed in large numbers to help measure wide-area phenomenon such as weather patterns for hurricane prediction or subtle vibrations that precede earthquakes, and then be effectively removed from the environment with no residual footprint,” it explained.

No doubt, this kind of technologies will change our life in the next future.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – DARPA, self-destruct chip)

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