PARC Awarded Up To $2 Million from DARPA to Develop Vanishing Electronics

Press Release

PARC, a Xerox company, today announced it has signed an up to $2 million contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop and demonstrate PARC’s disappearing electronics platform (called DUST), with intriguing implications for a variety of military, ecological, and commercial interests.

DUST, or Disintegration Upon Stress-Release Trigger, is a technology that allows electronic devices using full-performance microchips to be disintegrated on command, leaving only tiny fragments that are invisible to the human eye. The DUST technology builds on PARC’s cutting-edge capabilities in advanced manufacturing, novel electronics, and smart devices.

DARPA’s goal in its Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) program is to demonstrate electronic systems capable of physically disappearing in a controlled, trigger-able manner. These transient electronics should have performance comparable to commercial-off-the-shelf electronics, but with limited device persistence that can be programmed, adjusted in real time, triggered, and/or be sensitive to the deployment environment.

Sophisticated electronics can be made at low cost and are increasingly pervasive throughout the battlefield. Large numbers can be widely proliferated and used for applications such as distributed remote sensing and communications. However, it is nearly impossible to track and recover every device, resulting in unintended accumulation in the environment, potential unauthorized use, and compromise of intellectual property and technological advantage.

In addition to military applications, PARC is exploring a wide range of commercial and scientific uses for the DUST technology. One possibility is to help protect personal information such as laptops, mobile phones, e-wallets, and wearables – giving consumers and enterprises peace of mind that their data won’t be copied or exploited. The movie industry could also potentially use PARC’s DUST technology to protect highly valuable content it produces and distributes every year. In the world of environmental science, DUST sensors could be distributed in large numbers to help measure wide-area phenomenon like weather patterns for hurricane prediction or subtle vibrations that precede earthquakes, and then be effectively removed from the environment with no residual footprint.

“Imagine being able to cover a large area, like the ocean floor, with billions of tiny sensors to ‘hear’ what is happening within the earth’s crust, and have them quickly disintegrate into, essentially, sand, leaving no trace and not harming the planet or sea life,” said Sean Garner, PARC researcher and principal investigator on the DUST project. “I’m looking forward to working with other scientists and companies that can help us explore cool new ways to deploy DUST that we may not have even considered.”

“This research at PARC is part of our efforts to develop the Internet of Everything – building the technology fabric that lets us sense and manipulate the physical world in the same way that we’ve grown accustomed to interacting with information,” said Stephen Hoover, CEO of PARC. “We’re also focused on new technologies, both hardware and software, to help us protect information as our ‘digital selves’ take on more and more importance in our lives.”

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This document was cleared by DARPA on April 2, 2014. All copies should carry the Distribution Statement “A” (Approved for Public Release, Distribution Unlimited).  If you have any questions, please contact the Public Release Center.

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