'Mission Impossible'-Style Self-Destructing Gadgets May Be on the Way

New mechanism reportedly destroys smartphones and laptops in just 10 seconds

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Researchers at a Saudi Arabian University have proposed a new self-destruct mechanism, a bit like the ones Ethan Hunt dealt with on "Mission Impossible," according to a report published Thursday by the engineering magazine IEEE Spectrum. The mechanism deploys a quick-expanding polymer capable of destroying a smartphone or laptop in just 10 seconds.

Government agencies and corporations which would rather destroy a secret than let it slip into the wrong hands could benefit most from this technology. "The first customers would be the ones who need data protection: Intelligence communities, corporations, banks, hedge funds, social security administrations, collectors who handle massive data," explained Muhammad Mustafa Hussain, an electrical engineer at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

The device itself, compatible with any common semiconductor found in electronic devices, rapidly expands when heated by electrodes in a smartphone or laptop battery. It can be activated wirelessly or through certain sensors.

"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," Hussain added.

Check out the mechanism in action (below):

Photo: KAUST

Click here for the full report.