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Communications of the ACM


Transient Electronics Take Shape

Transient Electronics Take Shape, illustration

One of the intriguing aspects of the popular 1960s television show "Mission Impossible" was the opening sequence of every episode, which featured a secret agent listening to a recorded message about an upcoming mission. At the end of the recording each week, the tape would sizzle, crackle, and disintegrate into a heap of smoke and debris, ensuring no one else could access the top-secret information it contained.

Until recently, self-destructing electronic systems remained within the realm of science fiction, but advances in chemistry, engineering, and materials science are finally allowing researchers to construct circuits that break down on their own timetable. This includes systems that rely on conventional complementary oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology.


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