Text Messages by Molecular Communication | TechWell

Text Messages by Molecular Communication

Alcohol has occasionally been the catalyst for communication, but now it can claim to be the medium for it. Scientists have been testing out continuous communications of generic messages over a distance of several meters—by way of vodka.

So, what was the first message sent using a desk fan and vodka? Was it a line from one of Shakespeare's famous plays or a philosophical adage? No. How about the first line of Canada's national anthem? For those unfamiliar with the anthem, the first line is also the title of the piece. "O, Canada" was the first message sent by the scientists. 

The technology isn't currently transmitting earth-changing messages and it's likely the method won’t replace radio waves, but it could come in handy when electromagnetic waves just won’t work—such as in underground pipelines and tunnels, underwater shipwrecks, within human tissue, and in biomedical nanorobots.

This advancement in communication could have an important impact where current wireless technology falls short. By sending the message via chemical signal and having a receiver that measures the concentration of the alcohol molecules to decipher that message, information can be detected faster and in instances when it can't be detected by traditional methods.

Think the concept is ridiculous and too futuristic? Check out the video below. Andrew Eckford, a professor at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, explains that the method of transferring information is very similar to the crude information exchange seen in nature when animals mark their territory through bodily fluids, and other animals get "the message" from picking up those chemicals.

It’s important to note that molecular communication is actually quite abundant in nature. Some of our cells are using calcium signaling to tell our hearts to beat, and many species of bacteria have been using quorum sensing, a type of molecular communication, to communicate conditions of the cell’s immediate environment.

The difference between what occurs in nature and what the scientists at York University in Toronto and Warwick University in the United Kingdom are trying to do is that the goal of the current research is to transmit continuous data rather than static messages.

Although the technology is still being developed, Dr. Weisi Guo from University of Warwick’s School of Engineering explains that the concept isn’t as mind-boggling as people think. Guo thinks a range of academic and industrial products incorporating the technology could be available within a year: 

Imagine sending a detailed message using perfume—it sounds like something from a spy thriller novel, but in reality it is an incredibly simple way to communicate.

What are your thoughts on molecular communication? Will this advancement in technology have much impact? Do you think there is a potential market for this new form of communication? Tell us in the comments below.

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