Molecules of alcohol have been used to transmit messages and data, much like how animals and plants use molecular signaling to transmit information.
The researchers at University of Warwick in the UK and York University in Canada have developed a method to transform any kind of signal into binary signals, and then programmed molecules of evaporated alcohol to transmit the message. This kind of molecular transmission is very similar to the kind used by insects, who use pheromones to communicate over long distances.
"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 lead researcher Nariman Farsad, a doctoral student at York University.
The first demonstration of this system was the transmission of 'O Canada' by the researchers at York. They were able to transmit the song over a few meters before it was decoded by a receiver. The transmitter and receiver were made from off-the-shelf electronics and cost no more than $100.
Molecular communication is not a new concept but this team of researchers have been able to generate a continuous transmission of messages and over longer distances.
The team believes this technology could be useful in places where communication is difficult -- tunnels, pipelines or deep underground structures.
Dr. Weisi Guo at the University of Warwick said that the technology could be used to wirelessly monitor sewage pipes and oil rigs. Possible medical uses include communicating with sensors or tiny robots in the body which could be used to deliver targeted medication.
"On these tiny scales and in special structural environments, there are constraints with electromagnetic signals such as the ratio of antenna size to the wavelength of the signal, which chemical communication does not have," he added.
The findings of the research have been published on PLOS ONE.
[PLOS ONE] [York University]