Posted by Curt on 27 December, 2013 at 6:28 pm. Be the first to comment!


Jesse Aaron

Vodka is already a wonderfully versatile substance: it can be a part of any of a dozen different cocktails. You can even clean and kill weeds with it. However, researchers may have found yet another, rather unlikely, use for everybody’s favorite Russian beverage.

Research done by Canadian and British scientists has culminated in a molecular communications system that uses vodka as a medium. In other words: they have, for the very first time, used vodka as the delivery mechanism for simple text-based messages. The technology was envisioned as something that could be put to work in difficult or dangerous environments such as oil rigs, pipelines, and tunnels.

How Does It Work?

The technique currently being used with success seems almost too simple. The team of scientists have used a simple desk fan to transport evaporated vodka molecules over a distance, which were then decoded by a breathalyzer and translated into simple binary code.

If it sounds like the technology is primitive at this early stage, that’s because it is. The method, described in full in the PLOS ONE open journal, works by carefully controlling the concentration levels of the evaporated alcohol molecules. The letters of the alphabet are encoded into binary using a single spray to represent the digit 1, and no spray to represent 0.

Pioneers in Communication Technology

When Alexander Graham Bell made the first-ever phone call in March of 1876, his words were: “Mr. Watson, come here; I want to see you.” What, then, were the first words transmitted using this new communication medium? If brevity is the soul of wit, the research team is exceedingly witty: the first message they sent – in binary code, mind you – was 10101100111000101011110110. The translation is: “O Canada.”

The message was sent over a distance of just a few feet of open space. The device that received and decoded the transmission was similar to the breathalyzers used by law enforcement everywhere, and costs just $100.

Possible Applications

The research team doesn’t anticipate that this technique will replace any of our mainstream communication networks any time soon, if ever. The method is decidedly cumbersome, requiring about 25 seconds to transmit each letter, or five-seconds per spray. However, with some refinement, the scientists hope that this technology could be perfected and eventually put to work in what they call “niche markets” by teams that monitor sewer systems or work in underwater environments.

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