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'Black box for buses' datachip survives 900° conflag

Tech so secret, even DHS project chief knows naught

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Dastardly terrorists and/or incompetent drivers can no longer hope that the evidence of their catastrophic misdeeds, recorded by security cameras aboard public transport, will be erased in the hellish conflagrations following train wrecks and bus crashes.

That's because the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has developed a so-called "black box for buses" digital recording system, which can still give up its onboard video records even after being blown up with enormous force in a devastating explosive blast or heated to a blistering 900°C+ in a blazing fuel fire.

According to that fearless inhouse investigative news outlet, DHS Science and Technology Snapshots, the latest fuel-fire tests for the bus-black-box gear were a partial success:

In the middle of a hangar at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, an engineer poured diesel fuel into an open steel box. Two ruggedised prototypes were bolted to a horizontal bracket above the box. Inside these prototypes were the all-important memory chips.

Within seconds, the orange flame climbed to seven feet. Soon its heat reached over 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit. After eight minutes of intense heat, the controlled conflagration was snuffed. The prototypes were sprayed with water, which cooled them to a mere 100 degrees within a minute.

Even under these extraordinary circumstances, at least one of the data chips — and its gigabytes of video data — could be tested onsite. The second chip will require further analysis offsite.

Earlier trials had seen seven of eight chips come through functional after the bus they were installed aboard was blown up in a devastating blast by DHS engineers.

It seems that details of the ruggedisation process used by the chip manufacturers remain proprietary, however. Even DHS programme chief Stephen Dennis is apparently unaware of the super-tough chips' secret sauce.

"What special material was used to fortify the lucky prototype?" Dennis asked one of the manufacturers.

"Buy 10,000 cameras," came the wink-and-nod reply, "and we'll tell you."

Read all about it from S&T Snapshots here. ®

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