Stanford researchers set out to explore alternative methods to send and receive messages, eventually settling on utilizing chemicals instead of electricity.
Incredibly, the researchers were able to develop a machine capable of sending text messages using common chemicals, eliminating the need for electric signals.
How does the machine work?
The researchers replaced the 1s and 0s of binary communication with pulses of vinegar (an acid) and glass cleaner (a base) transmitted through plastic tubes. In addition, a computer is used to convert the team’s instructions into the chemical format, where a PH sensor on the receiving end translates the pulse of liquid back to traditional binary.
While yes, technically the system still relies on traditional electronics to interpret the chemical signals, it still represents a starting point for potential future chemical communication systems.
Applications could include situations underwater, an area where there is an abundance of metal, or even in the event the electric grid is knocked out, where normal electromagnetic communication systems have to be abandoned.
“It’s just so ‘out there,’ like science fiction,” said Andrea Goldsmith, professor of electrical engineering at Stanford, in a press statement. “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.”