New Material to Protect from Electronic Surveillance

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Conductive Composites, a small Utah company, has developed an extremely thin, flexible material, to shield from electronic emissions and electromagnetic pulses.

Beyond traditional network-penetration, novel methods of electronic snooping include directly sniffing out electronic and radio emissions. One way to defend against such a targeted attack is to construct a Faraday cage, named after the 18th century British scientist who discovered electrolysis. A Faraday cage, constructed from an electrically conductive material, deflects electromagnetic energy from the shielded target in every direction.

Nowadays, Faraday cages are everywhere. One was used when the College of Cardinals convened in 2013 to elect a new Pope, to prevent the possibility of a leak – no matter how hard the paparazzi tried, or how determined the cardinals were to release information out into the world.

To even access the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System, or JWICS, the US Defense Department’s secret-internet, is only possible inside a special terminal shielded by a Faraday cage.

The problem arises from costs of production and assembly limitations – the shields require quite a bit of material to be effective, and application is not always straightforward.

Conductive Composites has now greatly simplified the process. They developed a method to layer nickel on carbon to form a material that’s light, moldable like plastic, and yet as effective at electromagnetic dispersal as traditional metal cages.

The newly developed product promises to be far more scalable than prior methods, in time making electromagnetic shielding more approachable and affordable to all.

Beyond information security, the new material holds potential to protect against electromagnetic pulses, or EMPs. EMPs are an atomic-age danger, that is now an increasing concern in the homeland security community. A well-targeted EMP attack could cripple critical infrastructure, bringing major disruption to the lives of millions.

Government agencies, including US Air Force, are working on their own prototypes of EMP weaponry. With such weapons close to being a reality, the need to defend them is as pressing as ever.

Until EMP weapons reach viability, the material could be used to defend unmanned aerial and ground systems against targeted electronic attacks.

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