Feeds

DARPA hands IBM £3.4m to develop SELF DESTRUCTING CHIPS

Left an embarrassing USB key behind? No problem - it'll blow itself into dust

Boost IT visibility and business value

The American miltary's mad boffin department DARPA has commissioned IBM to design microchips that can simply "vanish" after being used.

After the embarrassment of special forces troops leaving behind a “stealth” helicopter during the US operation to kill Osama Bin Laden, America has a strong interest in making sure its tech doesn't fall into enemy hands.

About a year ago, it announced a scheme called Vanishing Programmable Resources, which is dedicated to making expensive stuff disappear.

IBM have now been handed £3.4m to design chips that can be remotely reduced to silicon dust.

This will be achieved by using a fuse to shatter a thin piece of glass substrate which forms the base of the chip. When it goes pop, the glass will hopefully destroy the silicon complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) chip on top of it.

The government tender said: "IBM plans to utilize the property of strained glass substrates to shatter as the driving force to reduce attached CMOS chips into Si and SiO2 powder. A trigger, such as a fuse or a reactive metal layer will be used to initiate shattering, in at least one location, on the glass substrate. An external RF signal will be required for this process to be initiated. IBM will explore various schemes to enhance glass shattering and techniques to transfer this into the attached Si CMOS devices."

Last month, DARPA awarded BAE $4.5m to develop a sensor that will simply dissolve when it is no longer required.

When the highly-modified Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter broke down during the Bin Laden raid, the US Navy SEALs resorted to blowing it up. But enough was left behind for the Chinese to have a quick peek at the downed whirlybird before Pakistan handed it back to America.

To ensure no secrets go AWOL when sensitive gear is abandoned in the future, DARPA's Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) program is developing "electronic systems capable of physically disappearing in a controlled, triggerable manner".

“The commercial off-the-shelf 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,” she added. “The breakdown of such devices could be triggered by a signal sent from command or any number of possible environmental conditions, such as temperature.” ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Microsoft: Azure isn't ready for biz-critical apps … yet
Microsoft will move its own IT to the cloud to avoid $200m server bill
Oracle reveals 32-core, 10 BEEELLION-transistor SPARC M7
New chip scales to 1024 cores, 8192 threads 64 TB RAM, at speeds over 3.6GHz
Docker kicks KVM's butt in IBM tests
Big Blue finds containers are speedy, but may not have much room to improve
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
Gartner's Special Report: Should you believe the hype?
Enough hot air to carry a balloon to the Moon
Flash could be CHEAPER than SAS DISK? Come off it, NetApp
Stats analysis reckons we'll hit that point in just three years
Dell The Man shrieks: 'We've got a Bitcoin order, we've got a Bitcoin order'
$50k of PowerEdge servers? That'll be 85 coins in digi-dosh
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.