Scientists at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia have recently demonstrated a prototype of a self-destructing device capable of rendering a phone or a laptop useless in a matter of seconds. The invention is primarily attributed to KAUST's electrical engineer Muhammad Mustafa Hussain. Hussain's contraption was designed using complicated methods but the way it works is relatively straightforward. The silicon chip inside the phone features a layer of polymer that expands when exposed to temperatures higher than 80 degrees Celsius, i.e. 176 degrees Fahrenheit. Electrodes capable of heating the polymer layer are located right next to the chip and can be powered by most conventional batteries. While primarily designed for phones, this invention can also be used to destroy tablets, laptops, and other types of conventional consumer electronics. Naturally, it's unlikely that a government agency would be interested in ordering a self-destructing microwave, but the technology is there. The GIF below shows how the device in question reacts to heat.
The contraption represents a significant improvement over other contemporary methods of destroying electronics seeing how it can completely obliterate a chip inside a phone or a laptop at a moment's notice and can even be triggered remotely. Once heated, the layer of polymer mentioned above rapidly expands its volume and renders the chip useless. The solution is compatible with chips that are up to 90 micrometers thick and requires around 500 milliwatts of electricity to work in approximately 10 seconds. The temperature triggering the self-destructing mechanism can even be adjusted to be almost three times as high as the current one, researchers claim, though they currently don't see a reason for doing so. Hussain believes that the device has a lot of potential applications and could be a huge hit with government agencies, intelligence communities, and even corporations who handle sensitive data on a regular basis. The self-destructing gadget can be installed on most contemporary chipsets, meaning it doesn't require a specialized device to work.
Hussain's research which led to this invention still hasn't been made public, but it will be revealed in one of the upcoming issues of the Advanced Materials Technologies, a renowned international journal focused on engineering techniques. While initial tests have been promising, KAUST's scientists and engineers are planning to continue developing their invention.