IBM signs contract with DARPA to develop self-destructing chips

By on February 7, 2014, 11:30 AM
darpa, ibm, chips, defense advanced research projects agency, self-destructing

“This message will self-destruct in five, four, three…” You’ve no doubt seen a scenario like this in spy movies or even cartoon shows but thanks to a recent contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), it could soon become a reality.

Last year, the agency announced intentions to build similar technology and put a call out for partners. The plan was to develop a device that when triggered, could degrade partially or completely into its surroundings.

IBM answered the call and was awarded a $3.45 million contract last month to move forward with the project. Known as Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR), the program will develop an entirely new class of electronics.

Alicia Jackson, DARPA program manager, noted at the time that commercial off-the-shelf, or COTS, electronics made for everyday purchases are durable and last nearly forever. What they are looking for, however, is a way to make electronics that last precisely as long as they are needed.

IBM will be experimenting with glass shattering techniques that could ultimately turn a functioning silicon chip into an unusable powder. DARPA said a trigger, like a fuse or a reactive metal layer, could be used to initiate the shattering process.

As you’ve probably already guessed, the technology would be used inside of spy gear or other devices on the battlefield like radios, remote sensors and phones. DARPA isn’t fond of gadgets like these being scattered across the battlefield where they could ultimately end up being captured by the enemy and repurposed or studied to gain a technological advantage.




User Comments: 15

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VitalyT VitalyT said:

And what does this "news" mean to an average consumer? These products will never appear on an open market, and will never effect any of us in any way, so who cares, really?

Guest said:

I know this is being developed primarily for military use, but I can't help but immediately think of commercial application. This brings a whole new meaning to planned obsolescence.

"I need to get a new phone."

"Why, is your contract about to expire?"

"No, my phone itself is about to expire and will disintegrate at the end of this billing cycle."

1 person liked this | Sarcasm Sarcasm said:

And what does this "news" mean to an average consumer? These products will never appear on an open market, and will never effect any of us in any way, so who cares, really?

Who knows, wife could find the 2TB of porn and start questioning. Husband says "What porn? You have no evidence."

JC713 JC713 said:

Wow self-destructing chips. Now that is crazy.

Guest said:

"And what does this "news" mean to an average consumer? These products will never appear on an open market, and will never effect any of us in any way, so who cares, really?"

Well if you're a business or corporation who actually gives a damn about where your physical data ends up this technology could be implemented into hard drives. Any type of storage device in a phone, tablet, pc, ect. Instead of spending days or even weeks to SECURELY erase data off of hard drives after the drive is ready to be disposed, just turn it into powder. saves time and therefore money especially on older drives that WERE still in use. No worries whatsoever that your 15 pass storage erasing program didn't miss something, is faster, and is more of a guarantee than you can get otherwise.

If there's ever some type of security breach.

The govt isn't the only entity that wants protection for data.

This can also be used for newer more advanced chips ensuring they aren't reverse engineered or something.

Guest said:

But that also assumes this can eventually be done for a reasonable price in the first place.

Razer said:

I would like to see next generation of smartphone with this kind of chips as a feature Lol

1 person liked this |
Staff
Steve Steve said:

Didn't AMD already develop this back in 2000 with their Athlon "Thunderbird" architecture? Those things always self-destructed.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

^^^LOL

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Self-Destructing!

Now that is the ultimate plan of obsolescence. Cellphone carriers will love this!

1 person liked this | veLa veLa said:

Didn't AMD already develop this back in 2000 with their Athlon "Thunderbird" architecture? Those things always self-destructed.

Really? My now ancient Athlon T-Bird still runs perfectly despite its age. I think you must have that chip confused for Intel's old Prescott design.

1 person liked this |
Staff
Steve Steve said:

Really? My now ancient Athlon T-Bird still runs perfectly despite its age. I think you must have that chip confused for Intel's old Prescott design.

Clearly you have never tried turning one on with the heatsink seated incorrectly. Unlike the Intel processors of the time or todays modern AMD and Intel processors the Athlon Thunderbird architecture didn't have a thermal cut out and would go up in a puff of smoke about 5 seconds after turning the system on if the heatsink wasn't installed or seated correctly.

By mistake over the few years that I tested with them I would have killed 3 or 4, completely my fault of course but they didn't allow any room for error.

Here are some examples

This is what I am talking about, video by Toms Hardware back in the day.

Love the Quake testing brings back so many memories.

SirGCal SirGCal said:

That is the key, it was completely your mistake. I've gone through trays of those old chips back in the day and never melted one, although I am meticulous with their handling and installation. Still, AMD didn't design them to self destruct, improper handling and installation caused it. Otherwise they were a pretty stout piece back in the day.

2 people like this |
Staff
Steve Steve said:

Yeah well when you put together articles like a 50 heatsink roundup where each heatsink gets re-seated 3 times forgive me for making a small mistake. Furthermore some of those heatsinks back then were extremely difficult to seat correctly which did make them a bad product but a product we needed to test nonetheless.

Anywayyy... of course they were not meant to burn up, for the love of god I was making a joke. Instead I just pissed off some AMD fanboys, sorry about that.

SNGX1275 SNGX1275, TS Forces Special, said:

Here, let me give it a shot @Steve

IBM should be pretty good at this, they already have a good track record for self destructing hard drives with their GXP line. I had a couple of them crash and burn on me.

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