DARPA's been hard at work on dissolvable, biodegradable electronics for some time now, but when they were introduced last September, the primary focus was for medical applications. Judging by an event DARPA is holding next month, however, it looks like the agency is unsurprisingly thinking about how this technology can be applied to the military. DARPA is hoping to develop "transient electronics," systems that are "capable of physically disappearing in a controlled, triggerable manner," that function similarly to the "commercial-off-the-shelf" systems currently used.
The benefit to the military is twofold — DARPA believes it is "nearly impossible" to both track and recover all of the electronic microsystems the military distributes, and there's also an environmental impact to be aware of. Ideally, these devices could be dissolved in a number of ways: by a set program, a remote trigger, or a trigger that responds to the environment. Particularly unconventional is DARPA's vision of devices that could "reabsorb into the body" — electronics that could monitor solidiers in the field and disappear into the body when their usefulness has past.
We're still a ways from this technology being deployed, so DARPA is inviting scientists and manufacturers to a "Vanishing, Programmable Resources (VAPR) Day" on February 14th in Virginia. The goal of the event is to introduce the technology to the science and technology community, "facilitate interactions" between those with the capabilities of developing this technology with those who need it, and to help connect organizations that have the skills and financing to contribute to the VAPR product. We expect we'll hear more about this technology around the time of next month's meeting, including potential players in this new technology field.