Scientists Send World's First Text Message Using Vodka

First Posted: Dec 20, 2013 09:18 AM EST

Vodka may not just be good for drinking. It may also be useful for sending text messages. Scientists have created a molecular communications system for the transmission of messages and data in challenging environments such as tunnels, pipelines, under water and within the body.

Molecular signaling is actually a common feature of the plant and animal kingdom. For example, insects use pheromones for long-range signaling. To date, though, continuous data has not been transmitted. That's why researchers decided to investigate this signaling a bit further to find out exactly how they might use it for future communications.

In this case, the researchers developed the capability to transform any generic message into binary signals. These, in turn, are "programmed" into evaporated alcohol molecules (like vodka) to demonstrate the potential of molecular communication. In the end, they were able to send "Oh Canada" from the Canadian national anthem several meters across open space before it was decoded by a receiver.

"We believe we have sent the world's first text message to be transmitted entirely with molecular communication, controlling concentration levels of the alcohol molecules, to encode the alphabets with single spray representing bit 1 and no spray representing the bit 0," said Nariman Farsad, one of the researchers, in a news release.

In theory, scientists could send detailed messages through perfume, or other chemicals. While scientists have managed short ranged signaling using chemicals in the past, this is the first time researchers have managed to successfully communicate continuous and generic messages over several meters.

"In the modern human world, our method won't replace electromagnetic waves which transmit the bulk of our data, but there are some areas where conventional communications systems are not particularly well-adapted," said Weisi Guo, one of the researchers, in a news release. "For example, inside tunnels, pipelines or deep underground structures, chemical signals can offer a more efficient way of transmitting sensor data, such as those collected to monitor the health of structures and processes."

The findings are published in the journal PLOS One.

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