Welcome to the New Age of Security, ‘Self-Destructing Chips’

Exploding chips may seem extreme, but it guarantees the security of your information. (Screenshot/IDG.tv)
Exploding chips may seem extreme, but it guarantees the security of your information. (Screenshot/IDG.tv)

Engineers from Xerox PARC have provided what could be a revolutionary tool for high-end security applications, a chip that has a self-destruct command. It was developed as part of DARPA’s vanishing programmable resources project.

The chip-on command will explode into tiny pieces, making it impossible to reconstruct.

The chip itself could be used for storing data, such as encryption keys. To make this possible they used Corning’s Gorilla Glass, which is the same glass used on some smartphones. However, they modified it to become tempered glass under extreme stress.

Gregory Whiting, a senior scientist at PARC said: “We take the glass, and we ion-exchange temper it to build in stress. What you get is glass that because it is heavily stressed, breaks it fragments into tiny little pieces.”


A diagram shows the chip’s self destruct sequence. (Screenshot/IDG.tv)

It was demonstrated at a recent DARPA event that was held in St. Louis. For the chip to self-destruct a photo diode was used as the mechanism, which sits at the bottom of the chip itself. It was triggered by using a laser for this demonstration, but radio signals or a physical switch could also be used to trigger it.

Surprisingly, the glass continued to break-up into even smaller pieces for about 10 seconds afterwards leaving thousands of pieces.


Glass continued to break into smaller pieces. (Screeshot/IDG.tv)

Whiting said: “The applications we are interested in are data security, and things like that. We really wanted to come up with a system that was very rapid, and compatible with commercial electronics.”

Exploding chips may seem to be an extreme solution to electronic security, but it does guarantee the security of your information.

The government, and military will be the first to use this technology, but imagine if your electronics got stolen from your home, and all you have to do is send a text to it — and it self-destructs.

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