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New Chip Can Identify Liquids, Encode Messages

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the handy-clandestine-uses dept.

Science 37

An anonymous reader writes "Scientists have developed a porous chip that can identify liquids instantaneously. Each liquid's distinct surface tension determines how much it seeps into the pores of the chip, which the chip uses to tell liquids apart. The researchers also decorated the chip with a secret message (ie, brand name) that only shows up when certain liquids are applied. The chip is so sensitive it can distinguish gasolines with varying proportions of ethanol, and could help clean-up crews identify spills in the field."

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37 comments

Sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36991742)

But can it tell mercury from galinstan? Liquid helium-3 from helium-4?

Re:Sure (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 2 years ago | (#36992098)

From the summary? Quite probably.

Awesome chips (2)

PoolOfThought (1492445) | more than 2 years ago | (#36991752)

So now my ruffles will know if I'm eating them with white cheese dip or nacho cheese dip. Nice!

Re:Awesome chips (3, Funny)

outsider007 (115534) | more than 2 years ago | (#36991876)

Yes but they'll also know when you've double dipped.

Interesting applications for ethanol (3, Interesting)

DanTheStone (1212500) | more than 2 years ago | (#36991780)

What would be truly interesting is if we the common people could check the percentage of ethanol when we fill up our gas tanks, or have it monitored within our gas tanks. Being able to tell at fill-up would actually tell you which gas station gives better gas. My money's on the chips being prohibitively expensive, though.

Re:Interesting applications for ethanol (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#36991872)

What would be truly interesting is if we the common people could check the percentage of ethanol when we fill up our gas tanks, or have it monitored within our gas tanks. Being able to tell at fill-up would actually tell you which gas station gives better gas. My money's on the chips being prohibitively expensive, though.

And the shitty gas with shitty corn isn't?

Re:Interesting applications for ethanol (4, Informative)

espiesp (1251084) | more than 2 years ago | (#36994048)

Flex Fuel vehicles already monitor this with a fuel composition sensor. It measures Ethanol content from 0-100% with a variable frequency between 50-150Hz, and Fuel temp with a pulse-width between 1 and 5ms.

Too bad it costs at least $400 or it'd be fun to play with.

Re:Interesting applications for ethanol (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#36995564)

And if you want to retrofit that capability to a vehicle, replace your ECU with a Megasquirt and hook up a Ford flex fuel sensor. You need to make sure your fuel lines can handle ethanol and your injectors can deliver enough fuel when running on 100% ethanol of course.

Re:Interesting applications for ethanol (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 2 years ago | (#36994596)

Even better - the car can itself sense it and adjust the engine management system depending on the quality of the fuel.

Right now the engine management systems are reactive, which means that they tune down the system when knocks occurs and at a regular basis it tries to tune up the system. A system that can predict the settings depending on fuel quality will provide even cleaner engines and better fuel economy.

Re:Interesting applications for ethanol (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 2 years ago | (#36995738)

If you want to know how much ethanol is in your gasoline all you need is a hydrometer [wikipedia.org] which is a pretty cheap instrument.

Re:Interesting applications for ethanol (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#36998070)

I would use it to see if my drink hasn't been watered down and is actually the brand I ordered.

Surfactants? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36991792)

What happens when I add an ionic or non-ionic surfactant to an aqueous solution? Can it detect that I've added SDS or Triton X-100 to water? Or would that throw the system off?

Re:Surfactants? (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#36992816)

If it effects the surface tension of the water (which surfactants do) then it should be able to identify it. It may not be able to register definitively what the surfactant is, but it should be able to identify the presence of one.

Re:Surfactants? (1)

CMontgomery (1238316) | more than 2 years ago | (#36994284)

And you should atleast have some idea of what you're going through the trouble of throwing a sensor into. Though this may be good for something like safety or for absorbing something and not something else.

Weird Use of the Word, "Chip" (3, Informative)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 2 years ago | (#36991818)

So, I clicked through TFA and the link to the paper contained within. I'm not sure why Discover refers to this piece of hardware as a 'chip.' It doesn't appear to be an electronic chip of any sort. It looks like the information about what liquid the material is dipped in is derived from studying the patterns of 'wetness' within the material's structure. But I don't see any mention of how this information would be communicated via some electrical signal to a microprocessor or other circuitry. Perhaps I am thinking in a limited context, but it seems like this material's usefulness as a sensor is still very limited.

Am I missing something?

Re:Weird Use of the Word, "Chip" (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#36991870)

I didn't RTFA, but note that the word "chip" is older than the electronic chip. So I guess the thing has just the physical form of a chip.

Re:Weird Use of the Word, "Chip" (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 2 years ago | (#36992178)

Fair enough.

Re:Weird Use of the Word, "Chip" (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#36993962)

The term is also widely-used for microarrays [wikipedia.org] and other micro-labs [wikipedia.org] . Many of them are actually fabricated in silicon or other media like integrated circuits—the rectangle cut out of silicon wafer being the chip proper!

Re:Weird Use of the Word, "Chip" (2)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#36992194)

If it is really just a case of visual inspection, then I suspect that this device + CCD + software = viable electronic sensor.

Re:Weird Use of the Word, "Chip" (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#36992214)

Does it look like a potato chip?

What do you Americans call them... crisps?

Re:Weird Use of the Word, "Chip" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36992350)

No. Doubt it tastes much like one, either.

Two nations divided by a common language (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36992386)

Are you looking for "french fries"?

Re:Two nations divided by a common language (1)

webmistressrachel (903577) | more than 2 years ago | (#36992582)

No, he's not. He means the thick, chopped potato variety, not the thin, American, never-seen-potatos-nor-been-to-France variety you are referring to, which come from American exports like McDonalds.

FYI, the two nations you are referring to are divided by much more than usage of our (English) language, more so recently than ever before.

Re:Two nations divided by a common language (2)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#36992774)

I'm pretty sure that relations between the US and Great Britain have been worse at certain points in history. If you think really hard, I'm sure that you can come up with a few examples.

Re:Two nations divided by a common language (1)

webmistressrachel (903577) | more than 2 years ago | (#36994720)

Our governments may have been, in serious conflict, but the general feelings of the population of the UK as a whole have never been so negative as they are today.

Come on, seriously, how the hell did the original Tea Party's actions directly affect the lives of ordinary people in the UK?

Constrast this with the worldwide economic nightmare your wars and greed are causing now.

Even before your "fake Pearl Harbour", your greed and avarice took on new heights and obesity reached record levels. And you carry on laughing to the bank whilst the rest of the world suffers.

So, you are wrong (but also right). I hope this explains my statement a little.

Re:Weird Use of the Word, "Chip" (2)

hyperquantization (804651) | more than 2 years ago | (#36992362)

...but it seems like this material's usefulness as a sensor is still very limited.

If you can see it, so can an electric circuit. You see, there are these fancy things called photodiodes... I mock, but in all seriousness, if you can map a measurable physical state to an unmeasurable physical state, then you might as well just skip the step and say, in this situation, something like "liquid chemical composition is measurable." The form the measurable information takes is irrelevant relative to the ability to measure it.

Re:Weird Use of the Word, "Chip" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36993442)

Am I missing something?

Like a nubile lamb, I flatulate nonstop into my bathrobe.

Re:Weird Use of the Word, "Chip" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36994476)

MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) sensors and now valves are considered chips. This I think qualifies as MEMS.

Surface tension sensor, not liquid determiner (2)

Dthief (1700318) | more than 2 years ago | (#36992730)

From the images it seems to not be that good at identification, unless I am not understanding it seems like it just gives a surface tension value.

In the case shown adding water to ethanol changes the reaction, however, mixes of water-ethanol would have the same surface tension as some other liquids, so how do you distinguish those, lets say acetone which is just a hair higher (in terms of S.T.) than ethanol vs ethanol+1%(or whatever makes it even) water

Check out this sample output! INTERESTING. (1)

Legal.Troll (2002574) | more than 2 years ago | (#36993066)

59:75:70:2c:20:74:68:61:74:27:73:20:70:65:65:20:61:6c:6c:20:72:69:67:68:74:21

th1s 1s goatsex (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36993210)

Theorists - Current core were Trying to dissect problems that I've llok at your soft, That supports Again. There are it a break, if

Re:th1s 1s goatsex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36994078)

Didn't your mother tell you not to shit out a good dick?

Pfffftttt.... (1)

balaband (1286038) | more than 2 years ago | (#36994694)

Any chip can detect iquid.....

Oh you mean more than once?

Cheeseoid will no longer be lonely! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36994906)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_m17HK97M8

my prediction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36995164)

create a chem id system using this and:
just have benign chemicals in it's database, give to EPA workers, then the next time a company needs a toxic spill covered up EPA worker goes "toxic, nah, the gizmo says it's probably just [benign substance], the dead animals must just be a weird migration error"
or
load database with poisons/explosives/etc, give to TSA workers, any time probable cause needed "sorry sir your sweat/saliva shows as a mix of vx and ricin, please come with us"
or
load database with illegal drugs, give to DEA, any time probable cause needed "sorry sir your "coffee" seems to be a mix of cocaine and opium, please come with be to the station"

Oh good (1)

cyberchondriac (456626) | more than 2 years ago | (#36996820)

I always wanted to know what was in Dr. Pepper. :-)

Talking Adult Diapers (1)

toxonix (1793960) | more than 2 years ago | (#36997200)

I regret to inform you that you've urinated again. Please change your pants at your earliest convenience.
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