Military researchers develop self-destructing material that ‘disappears in an instant’ to carry out covert missions without leaving any trace
- A new polymer can vanish when in contact with sun light or by push of a button
- Researchers say it could be used for covert military operations
- The polymer could be used as a delivery vessel and vanish rapidly afterward
A special type of polymer capable of disappearing without a trace is being tested by the US government.
Scientists say the material, made by researchers at the American Chemical Society at the behest of the Department of Defense, could be used to deploy electronic sensors and deliver military equipment covertly by dropping off packages and leaving no sign that the device was ever there.
‘This is not the kind of thing that slowly degrades over a year, like the biodegradable plastics that consumers might be familiar with,’ said Paul Kohl a doctor whose team developed the material.
‘This polymer disappears in an instant when you push a button to trigger an internal mechanism or the sun hits it.’
To achieve the the rapid transition from a solid state to decomposition, researchers say they used a type of polymer with a ‘low ceiling temperature,’ meaning that its bonds quickly break apart when above a certain threshold.
In this case, scientists used a light-sensitive catalyst to kickstart the polymers decomposition, meaning that as soon as the material is exposed to sunlight, it begins to vanish.
This would theoretically allow an operative to send out the polymer at night, leaving no trace of it when the sun rises.
Using this method, the researchers say they were also able to adjust the timing of decomposition to create materials with a longer shelf-life.
‘We have a way to delay the depolymerization for a specific amount of time—one hour, two hours, three hours,’ said Kohl in a statement.
‘You would keep it in the dark until you were going to use it, but then you would deploy it during the day, and you would have three hours before it decomposes.’
Scientist have pursued the creation of a polymer that can disappear rapidly but have failed due to their instability at room temperature
Yet another version is made to be sensitive to fluorescent light, making the material practical for indoor missions.
Scientists have tried for many years to create such a material but have failed due to the polymers’ instability when at room temperature.
By removing impurities from the substance before synthesis, however, they say the polymer was for more durable than its predecessors.
Though the polymer is already being incorporated into military technology, researchers say that it may have other more civilian or commercial applications as well.
Among them, they cite its potential for use as a temporary epoxy used in construction or for use as delivery vehicles to areas where recovery is difficult.
WHAT ARE THE PHASA-35 SOLAR-POWERED DRONE’S KEY STATS?
Engineers from defence giant BAE Systems and Farnborough-based firm Prismatic are developing a solar-powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
Known as Phasa-35, the aircraft could one day be used for surveillance and provide vital communications to remote areas.
Here are the UAV’s key stats:
– Maximum flight length: 12 months non-stop
– Altitude: Between 55,000 and 70,000 feet (17,000 to 21,000 metres)
– Wingspan: 115 feet (35 metres)
– Weight: 150kg (330lb)
– Powered by: Lithium-ion solar panels
– First test flight: 2019
The concept vehicle has a 115-foot (35m) wingspan and weighs just 150kg (330lb) – a lightweight build that allows it to fly at high altitudes for long periods