Complex Made Simple

Polymers, drones, gliders, gadgets even cells are committing suicide in mass. Here’s why

As if there is not enough violence around the world, man and nature are hand in hand engaged in mass killings.

But there is a twist. It’s for the betterment of mankind. A needed defence mechanism.

Welcome to self destruction strategies spreading death all around and they are here to stay.

A suicide mission

Researchers create a polymer that 'Self-Destructs' upon completing a mission.

Researchers at Paul Kohl's research group at the Georgia Institute of Technology have created a material that vaporizes immediately upon completing a mission calling it a "James Bond-like material."

The polymer "self destructs" and disappears once coming in contact with sunlight. Wy is that important? Perhaps it is material for a drone that delivers images, materials or information that need not fall in the possession of the wrong people.

It is the eventual aim of the polymer to create delivery vehicles that leave no trace, removing the need to go in and recover a device after a mission. The technology saves lives and removes unnecessary risks.  

Courtesy of  American Chemical Society

Paul Kohl Ph.D., who was part of the team who worked on the polymer, described the new material stating, "This is not the kind of thing that slowly degrades over a year, like the biodegradable plastics that consumers might be familiar with."

"This polymer disappears in an instant when you push a button to trigger an internal mechanism or the sun hits it."

Disappearing gliders

The same  team of researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology also developed a glider using special polymer material that can self-destruct on reaching a certain temperature.

 “This started off with building small sensors for the government — microphones, cameras, things that detect metal. But you don’t want anyone to discover it and take it apart and see how it works,” Paul Kohl, Georgia Institute of Technology, told New Scientist.

Cells that kill themselves 

A study co-led by The University of Queensland's Professor Bostjan Kobe identified the role certain proteins play in cellular suicide.

"To sustain life, diverse organisms like humans and plants have cells that commit suicide for the benefit of the rest of the organism," Professor Kobe said.

"This is a key part of our own immune response — infected cells will often commit suicide, so the greater organism can live.”

A better understanding of cell death processes may also lead to the development of disease-resistant plants, helping boost yields, minimise waste and bolster food security.

"Food security is similarly an increasingly relevant problem worldwide," Professor Kobe said.

Molecules ready to meet their maker

Scientists have created a new material that simply self-destructs at a specific time, paving the way for materials that don't need to be recycled. Imagine the energy saved trying to convert plastics or other recyclables into new product forms.

The secret behind these self-destructing molecules is that they would require a tiny input of energy to stay in their useful form — without it, they … poof, disappear.


Researchers at the University of Houston in Texas, along with colleagues in China, have developed circuits that dissolve when exposed to water molecules, including water vapor in the air. The researchers are working on self-destructing components that include resistors, capacitors, antennas, transistors, diodes, and photo sensors, disposable wearables, medical devices in the body.

Destruction could be either programmed or scheduled.