It wouldn't be the first time real life has sought to create something from science fiction, but now the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is hoping to create a modern version of self-destructing tapes and other devices.
While the concept has roots in the cold war, DARPA sees a contemporary need for technology that can disappear on command, assuming all someone has available to make it destruct is his or her own body.
The armed forces already have futuristic devices that can aid in communication, locating enemy operatives, knowing where one's friendly forces are, and monitoring possible threats from chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.
But sending technology out into the field is risky because if something goes wrong, the tech can wind up in enemy hands or be left as litter in the environment.
DARPA published a special notice on January 25, stating that, “The [Vanishing, Programmable Resources] program seeks to address this pervasive challenge by developing electronic systems capable of physically disappearing in a controlled, triggerable manner.”
Some options that DARPA has considered are disposable electronics that can degrade into environmentally harmless components or that can be absorbed into a human body. The latter strategy fits with another DARPA project that focuses on creating “nanosensors” that can monitor, and possibly even repair the body.
Already, there are lab prototypes of some vanishing devices, but there are often performance issues because electronics based on polymeric or other biologically derived materials are less efficient or less durable than devices produced with traditional materials.
Another challenge comes from the fact that researchers are trying to make devices that can degrade on demand, rather than slowly, over time.
To share the love for “Vanishing, Programmable Resources,” the program has announced a Proposer's Day for February 14 at the Capital Conference Center in Arlington, VA. This conference will give researchers and companies the opportunity to collaborate on taking the fiction out of these science fiction devices.
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Edited by Braden Becker