Forget wiping your phone remotely, this tech lets you destroy its innards instead

self destructing phone destruction
Self-destructing gadgets needn’t be the preserve of secret agents in spy flicks and Galaxy Note 7 owners. At least, that’s the message from a team of researchers in Saudi Arabia.

In a serious effort to build something that could prove useful for governments or businesses handling highly sensitive information, researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) have built a tiny prototype component that, when fixed inside a smartphone or similar gadget and activated, can destroy its vital innards in a matter of seconds.

The device comprises a polymer layer that rapidly expands to up to seven times its original size when heated to anything above 80 degrees Celsius. The heat is generated by a number of electrodes that draw their power from the gadget’s battery. As the polymer layer expands, it crushes and destroys nearby parts, rendering them useless.

While it’s possible to wipe a phone remotely, physically mashing up its internals in the event of losing highly sensitive data may be a preferable course of action for those dealing with such content.

“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,” Muhammad Mustafa Hussain, an electrical engineer at KAUST, told Spectrum.

The team also tried out different methods to set off the mechanism remotely, as if in a real-life situation. One involved fitting a pressure sensor inside the gadget that caused it to self-destruct if someone forced the cover off, while another linked it to a smartphone app that required a password to activate the wrecking mechanism remotely. A third experiment used GPS technology to activate the self-destruct process if the gadget was moved beyond the boundary of a designated area.

There’s still much work to be done before government operatives and secret agents have any hope of using this particular bit of kit. For example, the team wants to refine its technology and enhance it so it can destroy additional important components inside the mobile device or computer in which its been installed.

At this early stage, the work appears to show real promise and is particularly notable for its low cost. The team says it may cost as little as $15 per device and could even be easily retrofitted to larger devices such as laptops.

There have been other attempts to create self-destructing components for mobile devices, including this exploding glass chip from DARPA, but, as far as we know, a cheap and effective design is yet to make it to market.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Four Andromeda-related Microsoft patents hint at new ways to use the device

Andromeda might be getting even more real as four Microsoft patents have surfaced recently, all of which hint at possible new use cases and other new configurations for the device. 

These are the best Xbox One games available right now

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.
Digital Trends Live

DT Daily: Amazon HQ2(s), Indiegogo’s CEO, and Chris Bevans of Dyne

DT Daily's host Greg Nibler discussed headlines including Amazon's HQ2s and Twitter possibly getting an edit button. We also brought on the CEO of Indigogo and the creative director of Dyne.
Emerging Tech

In a weighty decision, scientists prepare to redefine the kilogram

Metrologists are meeting at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles to vote on whether to redefine the kilogram as a constant that can be observed in the natural world.

See the National Forests like never before in these awe-inspiring drone videos

What's the difference between a National Park and a National Forest? Drones. With no ban on drones in National Forests -- at least, not yet -- filmmakers have a way to capture the immensity of these locations with stunning results.
Emerging Tech

Google’s balloon internet is coming to Kenya in 2019

In order to bring the internet to those who lack it, a company called Loon is launching balloons into the stratosphere. From more than 12 miles up, these balloons beam connectivity over a large area on the ground.
Emerging Tech

Hikers missing on Mount Fuji could soon find a drone buzzing above their heads

Hikers who go missing while climbing Japan's highest mountain could soon find a drone buzzing above their head. A new system using the flying machines has been set up on Mount Fuji for future search-and-rescue missions.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk receives FCC approval to launch over 7,500 satellites into space

Not surprisingly, SpaceX is thinking big with Starlink, its space-based global broadband network. This week, the company received FCC approval to launch 7,518 satellites into a low-Earth orbit for its satellite internet service.

The world’s first 3D-printed titanium wheels are so intricate they look fake

HRE Performance Wheels and GE Additive have teamed up to create the world's first 3D-printed titanium wheels. They are not only impressively durable, but extremely lightweight as well.
Emerging Tech

Of all the vape pens in the world, these 5 are the best

Vaping concentrates has become significantly more popular, especially among those that use cannabis for medicinal purposes. But don’t use just any vape pen: we found these five devices to be our favorites in 2018.
Emerging Tech

DJI Mavic 2 Pro vs Mavic 2 Zoom: What’s the real difference?

DJI's Mavic 2 series drones are ready to fly -- but which one is right for you? The Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom are nearly identical save for their cameras. Here's what you need to know about these powerful new UAVs.
Emerging Tech

This startup will sequence your entire genome for free — but there’s a catch

Want to get your DNA sequenced but don’t want to shell out the hundred bucks or so to do so? A new startup called Nebula Genomics offers you the opportunity to have it done for free.
Emerging Tech

Here’s all the best tech gear and gadgetry that survived Shark Tank

The television show "Shark Tank" has churned out quite a few strange, interesting, and downright awesome products -- so we rounded up some of the best ones for your perusal. Enjoy!