New System Can Send Texts Through Household Chemicals

It’s now possible to send text messages through glass cleaner and vinegar. Technology invented by Stanford University engineers can relay messages through pulses of acids and bases to pH sensors, as The Verge reports. All it requires is a machine that can send out and decode messages of this type.

Researchers have been able to type text messages into a special machine that then sends out signals with vinegar and glass cleaners to a computer that decodes the chemicals back into text. Initially, inventor Nariman Farsad tried to use vodka to send messages, but the signals ended up building up so much that messages could no longer be received—kind of like a voicemail box that is too full. Instead, by using acids and bases (in places of the binary zeros and ones used by other communication systems), the chemicals cancel each other out when they’re received by the computer. The chemicals do, however, leave behind some residue, which means there’s a bit of noise in the signal that will have to be eliminated to make it truly effective.

The application of such a technology isn’t immediately clear, but the Stanford researchers suggest in a press release that it could be used underwater or in places with a lot of metal—both locations that usually confound electromagnetic communication signals. Because the tech could someday be used without electronics, it could potentially be harnessed to send messages off the grid, or to send signals between biotechnology nanorobots inside the body.

[h/t The Verge]

All images via YouTube courtesy Stanford University

New Clear Coating for Everyday Objects Repels Practically All Liquids

A new clear coating that is said to repel just about everything—peanut butter included—aims to halt the advance of sticky fingers. Developed by researchers at the University of Michigan, the substance can be applied to a variety of surfaces to keep them smudge- and crud-free, including smartphone and laptop screens, windows, walls, and countertops.

Researchers used algorithms to predict which substances would yield an efficient omniphobic coating, or in other words, something capable of repelling oils, alcohols, and other liquids while remaining durable and smooth. Made from a mix of fluorinated polyurethane and a fluid-repellent molecule called F-POSS, the coating can be “sprayed, brushed, dipped, or spin-coated onto a wide variety of surfaces, where it binds tightly,” according to the University of Michigan’s website.

The team’s findings were published in the March issue of the journal ACS Applied Materials Interfaces. Associate professor Anish Tuteja, who headed up the University of Michigan research team, says it could be a godsend for parents of young tots.

"I have a 2-year-old at home, so for me, this particular project was about more than just the science," Tuteja said in a statement. "We're excited about what this could do to make homes and daycares cleaner places, and we're looking at a variety of possible applications in industry as well."

The team is currently conducting follow-up tests to ensure the coating is nontoxic, but if all checks out, it could find its way into kindergarten classes and daycare centers within the next two years.

Child-proofing everyday objects for the sake of cleanliness isn’t its only potential application, though. The university notes that it could be beneficial to “all industries that depend on the condensation of liquids,” such as refrigeration, power generation, and oil refining.

In recent years, other researchers have set out to create omniphobic coatings, some of which have been successful. However, this undertaking is typically challenging and involves complex synthetic chemistry, according to Chemistry World.

Why You Never See Fresh Olives at the Grocery Store

If given a choice, most grocery shoppers prefer fresh produce over something that's been pumped full of preservatives. Yet shoppers are almost never given that choice when it comes to olives. The small, meaty fruits can be found floating in brines, packed in cans, and stuffed with pimentos, but they're hardly ever shipped to the store straight off the tree. As the video series Reactions explains, there's a good reason for that.

In their natural state, because they contain high concentrations of a bitter-tasting compound called oleuropein, fresh olives are practically inedible. To make the food palatable, olive producers have to get rid of these nasty-tasting chemicals, either by soaking them in water, fermenting them in salt brine, or treating them with sodium hydroxide.

Because of its speed, food manufacturers prefer the sodium hydroxide method. Commonly known as lye, sodium hydroxide accelerates the chemical breakdown of oleuropein into compounds that have a less aggressive taste. While other processes can take several weeks to work, sodium hydroxide only takes one week.

Afterward, the olives are washed to remove the caustic lye, then packed with water and salt to extend their shelf life, giving them their distinct briny flavor.

For more on the chemistry of olives, check out the full video from Reactions below.

[h/t Reactions]


More from mental floss studios