Your gadgets will soon self-destruct when stolen


There’s a new technology that prevents stolen smartphones and laptops from being accessed by destroying them. This helps to provide an extra layer of defense against thieves who resell devices or access the device’s sensitive data.

The self-destruct mechanism was built by researchers at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. According to the researchers, it works fast and can be installed on most modern devices. Now everyone needs one form of security or the other right? and this tech targets such audience.Muhammad Mustafa Hussain, an electrical engineer who helped to develop the technology, explained this to IEEE Spectrum.

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.


The self-destruct mechanism consists of an expandable polymer, which damages the device’s chips within a few seconds. After the mechanism is remotely triggered, heater electrodes that draw power from the device’s battery activates the polymer, this then rapidly expands to seven-times its original size when heated to 80°C (176°F).

The researchers said the expanding polymer can destroy a silicon chip up to 90 micrometers thick, or just less than 0.1 millimeters. They went on further to say, that a number of different triggers are possible, such as a GPS switch that could activate the self-destruct mechanism if for example the stolen device is taken outside of a building. Also another example would be a password-enabled app that could also remotely activate the trigger, said the researchers.

Because the technology can be retrofitted to existing laptops and desktops, the manufacturing costs will be cut down thus making it affordable. Each self-destruct mechanism could cost as little as $15, said Hussain.

More details of the research will be published in an upcoming issue of the “Advanced Materials Technologies” journal. Stay tuned for more, when that happens.

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is a private research university located in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia.

It was founded in 2009 and provides research and graduate training programs using English as the official language of instruction. It was announced in 2013 that KAUST had one of the fastest growing research and citation records in the world and in the 2016 Nature Index Rising Stars was ranked #19 in the world of the fastest rising universities for high quality research output. KAUST was ranked as the world’s top university in (citations per faculty) ranking indicator as per QS World University Rankings for 2015-2016 and 2016-2017.

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