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Researchers use alcohol, Arduino and a desk fan to send molecular text messages (video)

Timothy J. Seppala, @timseppala
December 19, 2013
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Scientists from York University in Toronto are using alcohol as a method for sending text messages. How, exactly? By converting sprays of isopropyl alcohol into binary code, using off-the-shelf components. The researchers used an Arduino Uno board, an Adafruit LCD, a desk fan and a household spray bottle to transmit a short message across a tabletop, via molecular diffusion. In the experiment, the fan pushed bursts of alcoholic mist across a table, where a sensor at the other end measured the alcohol content of the air. From there, the vapor was reassembled into non-binary characters and the phrase was successfully reconstructed. Naturally, the transmitted words were "O Canada."

The university says that this chemical form of data transmission could easily be shrunk to the microscopic level and find use in the medical field for targeted drug delivery. Conversely, the system could expand in size and offer communication through sewer systems or be used in search and rescue situations; basically, anywhere that traditional radio signals just won't work.

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