DARPA wants to create dissolving electronics

Summary:Instead of trying to track devices used on the battlefield, why not introduce a biodegradable kill-switch to keep electronics out of enemy hands?

Instead of trying to track devices used on the battlefield, why not introduce a biodegradable kill-switch to keep electronics out of enemy hands?

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) says that now technology use has expanded within the military, it is becoming almost impossible to track and recover every device. In addition, gadgets ranging from radios, remote sensors and mobile phones -- often critical for military use -- can often end up scattered across a battlefield.

However, no matter how cheaply these devices can be made, the possibility of them ending up in enemy hands remains of concern, which can affect both strategic and physical outcomes of a warzone situation.

Apart from sending men out to scour a battlefield for missing gadgets, how else can you make sure that they stay useful only to one side? This is where DARPA comes in, recently announcing its wish to begin the Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) program, with the aim not only to "revolutionize" state-of-the-art military technology, but to ensure that military gadgets can dissolve and be rendered useless.

Electronics developed under the VAPR project "should maintain the current functionality and ruggedness of conventional electronics" used in the battlefield, but come with a twist -- when triggered to dissolve, to degrade at least partially and become useless.

"The commercial off-the-shelf, or COTS, electronics made for everyday purchases are durable and last nearly forever," said Alicia Jackson, DARPA program manager. "DARPA is looking for a way to make electronics that last precisely as long as they are needed. The breakdown of such devices could be triggered by a signal sent from command or any number of possible environmental conditions, such as temperature."

DARPA has posted a special announcement for a Proposers' Day to be held in advance of a full briefing on the project in order to try and attract developers to conduct basic research into materials, devices, manufacturing and integration processes for the dissolvable electronics.

It might end up being years before dissolving components end up on the military market, but its certainly not entirely inconceivable. Last year, DARPA demonstrated that "transient electronics" could be fabricated out of silicon in order to dissolve in liquid.

Image credit: DARPA


This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Topics: Innovation


Charlie Osborne, a medical anthropologist who studied at the University of Kent, UK, is a journalist, freelance photographer and former teacher. She has spent years travelling and working across Europe and the Middle East as a teacher, and has been involved in the running of businesses ranging from media and events to B2B sales. Charli... Full Bio

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