Self-destructing phones soon to be reality

DECCAN CHRONICLE
Published Feb 10, 2017, 1:49 pm IST
Updated Feb 10, 2017, 1:50 pm IST
A team of researchers in Saudi Arabia have built a prototype of a self-destructing gadget.
(Representational image)
 (Representational image)

The concept of a self-destructing smartphone is intriguing. Imagine having an option of willingly destructing your device as oppose to something like Samsung’s fire prone Galaxy Note 7. Electrical engineers at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulla University of Science and Technology (KAUST) have made that possible.

They have developed a gadget that can self-destruct, thereby destroying the data in case the hardware has been lost.

 

The gadget essentially channelises the power from the device’s battery into electrodes that rapidly heat, thereby triggering the release and expansion of a special polymer. This causes a quick expansion that ultimately crushes the processor of the device.

“Roughly 500 to 600 milliwatts supplied to the heater electrodes enables the polymer to expand and crumple the chip within 10 to 15 seconds, but even lower power values of around 300 milliwatts could do the job in just over a minute. Several experiments showed that the polymer’s rapid expansion can destroy an adjacent silicon chip up to 90 micrometers thick,” a IEEE Spectrum report read.

“The expandable polymer expands much more and causes sufficient tension in the thin silicon — which is sitting on top of the polymer — so it simply crumples and then breaks,” Muhammad Mustafa Hussain, a researcher with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), explains.

The researchers have tested the mechanism with success. They have made use of numerous triggers including a GPS sensor that destroys the device within a matter of seconds. They have also developed an app that is connected to the device. Users, through the app, can easily trigger the burst with a help of a password. This way, the owner doesn’t necessarily have to be in the possession of the gadget. They can simply order for the gadget’s destruction from a safe distance.

At the moment, the technology is still being tested. But the researchers at KAUST hope to implement the mechanism at a grand stage in the coming months.

This isn’t the first time such a technology has been invented. The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has recently developed a glass chip that shatters within 10 seconds.

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