Infochemistry and infofuses for the chemical storage and transmission of coded information

Samuel W. Thomas III, Ryan C. Chiechi, Christopher N. LaFratta, Michael R. Webb, Andrew Lee, Benjamin J. Wiley, Mitchell R. Zakin, David R. Walt, George M. Whitesides

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This article describes a self-powered system that uses chemical reactions—the thermal excitation of alkali metals—to transmit coded alphanumeric information. The transmitter (an ‘‘infofuse’’) is a strip of the flammable polymer nitrocellulose patterned with alkali metal ions; this pattern encodes the information. The wavelengths of 2 consecutive pulses of light represent each alphanumeric character. While burning, infofuses transmit a sequence of pulses (at 5–20 Hz) of atomic emission that correspond to the sequence of metallic salts (and therefore to the encoded information). This system combines information technology and chemical reactions into a new area—‘‘infochemistry’’—that is the first step toward systems that combine sensing and transduction of chemical signals with multicolor transmission of alphanumeric information.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9147-9150
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • combustion
  • atomic emission
  • alphanumeric characters

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