Darpa, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has paid IBM £3.4m to create self-destructing chips.
This budget comes from a government scheme that started last year called Vanishing Programmable Resources. It was created after the embarrassment of leaving a downed stealth helicopter at the site of the operation to kill Osama bin Laden. Its goal is to create "electronic systems capable of physically disappearing in a controlled, triggerable manner".
IBM plans to create chips which turn to dust on command. This will be achieved using a fuse that shatters a thin glass substrate which forms the base of the chip. This should also destroy the CMOS chip.
Darpa also funded BAE $4.5m last month to develop a sensor that will dissolve when no longer needed.
The US government tender said: "IBM plans to utilise the property of strained glass substrates to shatter as the driving force to reduce attached CMOS chips into Si and SiO2 powder. A trigger, such as a fuse or a reactive metal layer will be used to initiate shattering, in at least one location, on the glass substrate. An external RF signal will be required for this process to be initiated. IBM will explore various schemes to enhance glass shattering and techniques to transfer this into the attached Si CMOS devices."
Here's hoping these don't make it into our phones or hackers could potentially destroy more than just software.