The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Defence, is developing self-destructing electronic components as part of its Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) programme. Its recent ICARUS project is dedicated to the development of air vehicles that disappear upon mission completion. The programme is named for the Icarus of Greek mythology, whose waxy wings melted when he flew too close to the sun.
The VAPR team developed electronic-infused glass strips that can be triggered to shatter into dust and small polymer panels that disappear when they convert from a solid to a gas phase. The team found it was theoretically possible to build larger structures that could be engineered to self-combust.
Self-destructing systems are useful for a range of situations, e.g., destroying sophisticated technologies that are used on battlefields and then left behind. Discarded electronics also pose a threat to the environment as they rust and decompose. The flying vehicles could also be used to deliver food, water and vaccines to people living in remote areas, or to transport supplies to people stranded by natural disasters.