As we all know, “Chip” is short for microchip, the incredibly complex yet tiny modules that store computer memory or provide logic circuitry for microprocessors.
A new computer chip made of tempered glass that self destructs in seconds when remotely triggered could keep sensitive date secure. The new method uses silicon computer wafers attached to a piece of tempered glass that shatters into small pieces when heated in one spot.
The heat can be turned on via a remote, which in the future could conceivably be triggered by anything from Wi-Fi to a radiofrequency signal, said Gregory Whiting, a materials scientist and manager of the Novel Electronics Group that produced the chip at PARC, a Xerox company.
To induce chip suicide, the team triggers the chip with a tiny heating element, which causes a thermal shock that creates a fracture that spreads throughout the glass. The current demonstration uses a piece of glass that is 250 micrometers thick, but theoretically, any size glass could be used, Whiting said. (For comparison, an average strand of human hair is about 80 to 100 micrometers thick.). The team came upon the idea of tempered glass, an extra strength material also known as safety glass. Normally, people temper glass by cooling the edges: The glass exterior shrinks, putting the exterior into compression while the warmer interior maintains incredible tensile stress. Though the glass is stronger than normal, “if you break a piece of safety glass, it kind of explodes, shatters explosively into little pieces,” Whiting said.
It’s actually pretty hard to completely destroy information on an electronic device using most methods, but the self-destructing glass chip shatters into such tiny pieces that the method which doesn’t just wipe the data, it sort of rearranges the bits.