Engineers uncovered an unlikely alternative to sending text messages.
A team at Stanford University is experimenting with a device that uses pulses of acid such as vinegar or glass cleaner to transmit messages instead of the usual binary code of zeros and ones.
Essentially, it works by typing the intended message into a small computer, which then sends a signal to another machine that pumps out the corresponding “bits” of chemical based code, according to Stanford’s announcement. These chemicals travel through a series of plastic tubes reaching a small container with a pH sensors.
Changes in the pH are then sent to a computer to decipher the encoded message.
Both chemicals were used in this scenario because they were easy to obtain and cancel each other out at the receiving end of this system. A previous experiment using vodka didn’t work because the end of the device meant to receive messages became saturated with alcohol preventing more texts from coming through.
The team is excited about the potential field applications for this technology, but acknowledges this research is relatively uncharted territory because there are few other scientists studying this concept.
“It’s just so ‘out there,’ like science fiction,” said Andrea Goldsmith, Ph.D., a co-developer of this prototype and professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University. “What are all the exciting ways that we could use this to enable communication that is impossible today? That’s what I would want someone to walk away thinking about.”
Goldsmith has spent her whole career working on wireless communication.
Chemical communication could be useful in advancing nanotechnology projects. Some of these nanotech inventions rely on high-frequency signals to communicate, which could damage internal organs as the machines travel through the human body. Infusing a chemical-based data exchange into these creations could enable safer travel throughout the body without inducing harm.
Watch the video of the system in action below.