If you haven’t heard of SRI International, you might know the nonprofit research group and regular defense contractor by its work: the computer mouse, color TV, the early work on the technology for Siri, and the design of Disneyland, to name a few examples.
Just before the new year, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced another $4.7 million grant to the Menlo Park, California-based organization, this time for something that also sounds, at first, like giddy sci-fi kitsch. As part of DARPA’s “Vanishing Programmable Resources” program, which seeks to make battlefield electronics capable of “dissolving into the environment around them,” SRI International will be working on a battery that disappears at will.
Yes, for real.
In early 2013, DARPA initiated the call for program participants, announcing that it wanted to create a class of “transient electronics” that changed physical or chemical properties without being submerged in water–the goal of which would be to keep those electronics out of the hands of enemy combatants who could recover them on the field.
“DARPA is looking for a way to make electronics that last precisely as long as they are needed. The breakdown of such devices could be triggered by a signal sent from command or any number of possible environmental conditions, such as temperature,” Alicia Jackson, program manager, said in a statement at the time of the announcement.
SRI International is now tasked with transforming a silicon-air battery to achieve this kind of goal.
Military & Aerospace Electronics has more:
“Transient electronics may enable revolutionary new military capabilities, including sensors, environmental monitoring over large areas, and simplified diagnosis, treatment, and health monitoring in the field, DARPA officials say.
Large-area distributed networks of sensors that can decompose in the natural environment may provide critical data for a limited time, but no longer. In medical applications, devices that resorb into the body may aid in continuous health monitoring and treatment in the field.”
Wearable tech suddenly seems like very old news.