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Messages sent via molecules can aid communication underground, underwater or inside the body


" Of course people have achieved short ranged signalling using chemicals, but we have gone to the next level and successfully communicated continuous and generic messages over several metres.

"Signalling or cues are something we see all the time in the natural world - bees for example use chemicals in pheromones to signal to others when there is a threat to the hive.

"In the modern human world, our method won't replace electromagnetic waves which transmit the bulk of our data, but there are some areas where conventional communications systems are not particularly well-adapted.

"For example, inside tunnels, pipelines or deep underground structures, chemical signals can offer a more efficient way of transmitting sensor data, such as those collected to monitor the health of structures and processes.

"Potential targeted applications include wireless monitoring of sewage works and oil rigs. This could prevent future disasters such as the bus-sized fatberg found blocking the London sewage networks in 2013, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010."

"They can also be used to communicate on the nano scale, for example in medicine where recent advances mean it's possible to embed sensors into the organs of the body or create miniature robots to carry out a specific task such as targeting drugs to cancer cells.

"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.

"Molecular communication signals are also biocompatible and require very little energy to generate and propagate."

The team will now set up a company which aims to bring a range of academic and industrial products to the market.


Contact: Weisi Guo
University of Warwick

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