DARPA On the Hunt for Self-Destructing Electronics

They aren’t going to self-destruct quite like this. Sorry guys.

A new Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program, Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR), is searching for developers of transient electronics, or electronics with the ability to dissolve into the environment around them upon command.

Because of the ever increasing dependency the military has on electronic equipment, the agency seeks a solution to mitigate the risk of government equipment and data falling into the wrong hands. Electronics used by military personnel are often discarded on the battlefield and can be easily recovered by enemy forces which then might be repurposed, or studied. The last thing we want is for our enemies to obtain confidential information about our troops, or their operations.

Here’s a quote from DARPA’s site, “The commercial off-the-shelf, or COTS, electronics made for everyday purchases are durable and last nearly forever… 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 alone doesn’t have the manpower required to develop this new future tech and so they’ve begun VAPR in an attempt to solve this problem as quickly as possible. They’ve announced a Proposer’s Day event, that will allow participants to delve deeper in to materials, manufacturing, and integration research. For now, DARPA wants the program to focus only on medical applications. They want a proof-of-concept before integrating this technology into military-grade electronics, and they’re hoping to see components designed that can reabsorb into organic material like the human body.

DARPA has already developed electronics that are eco-friendly, biocompatible, and capable of dissolving in small amounts of liquid. But what they’re really after would involve something that doesn’t require the addition of another material. Something completely self contained, but yet capable of ‘self-destructing’ if you will.

If development goes well, I for one see this technology opening a new door for all that is electronics manufacturing. Talk about disposable. This could be the beginning stages of low-cost, biodegradable electronics used in the mass consumer market. I’d love to watch Starbucks commercials on a small, organic-friendly OLED screen on my double mocha latte. Thank you DARPA! Yeah I know it’s a long way off, but hey it is a start.

Chase Williams

Chase is a serial entrepreneur, electrical engineer, writer, and self-proclaimed techie. He enjoys to travel, hike, kayak, and learn new languages. He's been weightless on-board a NASA C9-B aircraft and his head hasn't quite come back down from the upper atmosphere. To keep up with his low-oxygen chatter, follow him on Twitter @ChaseHWill