Defense Agency Makes Mission Impossible-Style Self-Destructing Devices

Defense Agency Makes Mission Impossible-Style Self-Destructing Devices

How do you one-up Tom Cruise’s exploding chewing gum? DARPA creates dissolvable gadgets.

Betsy Mead
  • 31 january 2013

How do you one-up Tom Cruise’s exploding Red Light Green Light chewing gum from Mission Impossible (1996), without ending up like this kid? DARPA may have the answer—by creating biodegradable, self-destructing gadgets.

The organization, affiliated with the United States’ Department of Defense, is, apparently working to make electronics that can destroy themselves. These implements, or ‘suicide sensors,’ will function just like their normal equivalents, except they will have a preprogrammed capability to vanish when required.

A need for tighter control may have contributed to the development of these eco-friendly gizmos. After all, once armies have fled the battlefields, military technology is often left behind for curious enemies to collect. Abandoned armaments could fall into the wrong hands and be used against their very creators. ‘Transient electronics’ could lessen the incidence of such happenings and increase overall security.


The idea isn’t completely new, though. DARPA has already been hard at work attempting to craft dissolvable components for use in the medical field. Regular electronics are extremely hard wearing and, if found by military rivals, might be highly threatening. As program manager Alicia Jackson says,

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.

Unfortunately for most mere mortals, the technology is being formulated for military use only, so those looking to wipe misplaced iPhones are out of luck–for now. The Find my iPhone app will have to do!

The innovative tools are being designed under the VAPR (Vanishing Programmable Resources) project, but DARPA is keeping most information strictly under wraps. It plans to posit ideas about the gadgets next month at a conference in Virginia. Science and tech representatives will be on hand to offer thoughts about further research into the area.

Want to see the device in action? Have a look at the video below:

Video and Image Credits: Gizmag

Read more about the program here and here.

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