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Science Technology

New Chip Can Identify Liquids, Encode Messages 37

Posted by timothy
from the handy-clandestine-uses dept.
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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New Chip Can Identify Liquids, Encode Messages

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  • So now my ruffles will know if I'm eating them with white cheese dip or nacho cheese dip. Nice!
  • by DanTheStone (1212500) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @06:36PM (#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.
    • by espiesp (1251084) on Friday August 05, 2011 @12:55AM (#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.

      • 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.

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      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.

    • by mangu (126918)

      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.

    • by houghi (78078)

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

  • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @06:42PM (#36991818) Homepage Journal
    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?
    • 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.

    • by dgatwood (11270)

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

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      Does it look like a potato chip?

      What do you Americans call them... crisps?

    • ...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.

  • by Dthief (1700318) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @08:32PM (#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

  • Any chip can detect iquid.....

    Oh you mean more than once?

  • I always wanted to know what was in Dr. Pepper. :-)
  • I regret to inform you that you've urinated again. Please change your pants at your earliest convenience.

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