Xerox Has Made Disintegrating Computer Chips

November 16, 2015, 1:00 PM UTC
pickup Armin Harris
Courtesy of Parc, a Xerox Company

WHAT: A self-destructing computer chip that explodes on command.

NO MONKEY BUSINESS: The circuitry is printed on a Corning Gorilla Glass panel that shatters into thousands of pieces when triggered by heat, sound, laser, or radio wave.

SNAP, CRACKLE, POP: Residual energy from detonation cracks the chip’s crystalline shards into ever smaller pieces like a car’s safety glass.

HIGH-STRESS SITUATION: The tech could be used to make destructible cryptographic keys, rendering useless data that falls into the wrong hands.

MISSION POSSIBLE: Xerox (XRX) developed the splintering slab with support from the U.S. Defense Department’s emerging-tech arm, DARPA, which set aside about $18 million for “vanishing programmable resources.”

CYBER CYANIDE PILL: Consider a battlefield scenario, says Steve Hoover, CEO of PARC, Xerox’s famed R&D unit. “Torture me all you want,” he says with a grin. “The keys are gone.”

A version of this article appears in the December 1, 2015 issue of Fortune with the headline “This Data Will Self-Destruct.”

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