Stanford Researchers Send Text Messages Using Chemicals

Posted Nov 18, 2016
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People are always found looking at their phones and texting. This form of communication is so heavily relied upon, that life without it seems impossible. It is a wide known fact that texting is made possible by using electrical signals from different satellites that help us network with one another via just a couple of words. But what if texting was made possible by an alternate method? Say, a chemical method? Well, this is exactly what scientists from Stanford have been able to achieve recently.

They have managed to use chemicals as the base unit of communication instead of electricity, and have been able to send a text message with it. Stanford’s setup is built on the most modern-day electronic trends. What makes Stanford stand out is that instead of electricity, it just uses chemicals to send instructions.

How does this work?

Electric signals work on binary numbers (0s and 1s). In this chemical mode of communication, the binary numbers are replaced with vinegar pulses (acids) and glass cleaner solutions (alkalis) in tubes of plastic. A conventional computer is used to convert the researcher’s instructions in a chemical format which is then read by the pH sensor, which then converts the pulses of liquid into binary codes again.

Could be useful when electric grid is knocked out

As mentioned earlier, we are a generation of people who are heavily reliant on texting for communication and that texting is made possible by an electric grid.

For one, this chemical mode of communication may come in handy when the electric grids are off and not working. You will be able to send a text message off grid. They could also be used in places where traditional electromagnetic systems have difficulty communicating, for example, under water or in places lined with heavy metals.

In medicine, this could be of use because some high-frequency signals can be extremely harmful to the body and this could prove to be an alternate to that. Also, problems are bound to arise when the electric grid is knocked out and you have to diagnose a patient, heavily depending on some sort of power source to get your machine up and running.

“It’s just so ‘out there,’ like science fiction,” said Andrea Goldsmith, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford. “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.”

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