Uncovering Hi-Tech Messages
Reported October 2011
BOSTON (Ivanhoe Newswire)--It’s like James Bond meets Bill Nye the Science Guy. Students and professors at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Science have created a chip that can test chemicals and be used as an encryption device! We’ll show you how a gemstone makes it all possible.
Inside a not-so-secret lab at Harvard University, we find an international man of mystery. Engineering and applied science grad student Ian Burgess is working with a team on some pretty sophisticated stuff.
“We’re actually creating opal,” Joanna Aizenberg, a material scientist at Harvard University told Ivanhoe.
Material scientist Joanna Aizenberg says the synthetic opals are actually inversed in shape and full of pores so liquids can penetrate them. They’re grown on chips and shimmer in the light. When wiped with chemical solutions (like a mixture of five percent water and 95 percent ethanol) secret messages embedded in the chips appear. Different concentrations can reveal different messages on the same chip. Then it all disappears when dried. It’s called watermark ink. W-Ink for short. Ian says it works because of chemistry and surface tension. Some liquids bead up, others flatten on surfaces.
“And so that made us very excited because everything has surface tension,” Ian Burgess, a Harvard grad student told Ivanhoe.
While experimenting with W-Ink’s wet encryption capabilities another discovery was made. If programmed a certain way. The invention could be used to identify hazardous chemicals.
“We realized that actually it might also be very well used for this application,” Burgess said.
It can tell you about unknown liquids spilled in the lab or if you’re getting the gas you paid for.
“(It’s) something that you can use in the field that gives immediate read out,” Aizenberg concluded.
From quality control to encryption, W-Ink’s possibilities might even make James Bond’s “Q” jealous.
Chemists, material scientists, electrical engineers and mechanical engineers all played roles in developing W-Ink. Ian says he’s already been contacted by companies interested in its liquid identifying capabilities.
The American Physical Society, AVS, the Science and Technology Society and the Materials Research Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science and View Video or contact:
Amy Smith Berylson Professor of Materials Science
School of Engineering and Applied Science
Tracking With Twitter: You Are What You Tweet!
This Month's TV Reports
Who is watching you? Tweets are being tracked as Twitter becomes a new tool for scientists focusing in on trends.
Air & Asthma -- Pollution Changing Your DNA?
In the last decade the number of people diagnosed with Asthma grew by four million. But could dirty air do more than just trigger attacks? New studies show it can also alter your DNA.
Melanoma In 3-D—Photoacoustic Tomography
It’s one of the most common forms of cancer in the U.S. Now new imaging technology could change the diagnosis and treatment of melanoma.
Sniffing Out Cancer In Dogs & People
From poodles to basset hounds – purebreds are helping scientists unlock the mysteries of cancer in people.
Play Ball! Go Virtual And Get Back In The Game
From torn ligaments and damaged knees to shoulder injuries—a new virtual approach to treatment could get you back to your sport faster and stronger than ever before.
Tricking The Mind—Third Arm Illusion?
Many amputees say they can still the presence of a missing limb. Now scientists are using the idea behind a “phantom limb” to create prosthetics with feelings.
Uncovering Hidden Hi-Tech Messages
It’s like James Bond meets Bill Nye the Science Guy! Harvard students have created a chip that can test chemicals and be used to create hidden messages.
Detecting Prostate Cancer — New PSA Test Goes Pro!
It’s one of the fastest growing cancers in men—Prostate cancer. Now, there’s a new, more accurate test that will save millions of men from going through unnecessary biopsies and needless treatments.
Tics Or Tourette’s?
A look inside one little girl’s brain may help doctors find a cure for tens of thousands of people with uncontrollable tics.
Inside The NIH — Movement Labs
Movement disorders affect up to 72 million Americans. Now, a one-of-a-kind lab at the National Institutes of Health may help them get the treatment patients need.
Forget About It! Your Memory & Aging
Forget where you parked the car? Can’t find your keys? Don’t worry—signs of an aging brain do not mean you are losing your mind.
World’s First Electric Fish Choir
It’s a choir of singing FISH and it’s like nothing you’ve seen before. We’ll show you a rare glimpse of science and art coming together to make music.