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Scientists Send Text Message Using Vodka

File - At a Kvint store, a saleswoman shows a vodka bottle. Scientists have used the spirit to send a text message (Vera Undritz for VOA)
Drunk texting has a new meaning.

Scientists at York University in Canada say they’ve successfully sent a text message, “O Canada,” using evaporated vodka. They say the system could one day fill gaps where wireless technology fails.

“Chemical signals can offer a more efficient way of transmitting data inside tunnels, pipelines or deep underground structures. For example, the recent massive clog in the London sewer system could have been detected earlier on, and without all the mess workers had to deal with by sending robots equipped with a molecular communication system,” said Professor Andrew Eckford of York University.

The chemical signal, using the alcohol in vodka, was sent four meters across the lab with the aid of a tabletop fan. It was then extracted by a receiver that measured the rate of change in concentration of the alcohol molecules, picking up whether the concentration was increasing or decreasing.

“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 alphabet, with single spray representing bits and no spray representing the bit zero,” says York University doctoral candidate Nariman Farsad, who led the experiment.

Though use of chemical signals is a new method in human communication technology, the bio-compatible method is very common in the animal kingdom. Bees, for example, use chemicals in pheromones when there is a threat to the hive, and so does the Canadian lnyx when marking its territory.

The researchers’ article, “Tabletop Molecular Communication: Text Messages Through Chemical Signals," appears in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE.

A previous version of this story incorrectly identified York University as located in England. VOA regrets the error.