Monday, 10 August 2015

Humanity Learns to Communicate in Nature’s Language


The brighter brains around the world have been looking for the most effective and cheapest way of communication between different systems since the time immemorial. Their pursuit for such a solution took them to materials like silicon to develop semi-conductor based systems that communicate through a series of hexadecimal values that only machines can understand. Hence, the design of such systems was the handiwork of a learned few who knew the systems level programming. Now, the further pursuit has landed them up before the nature itself. They have found that the chemicals based communication offers a far superior mode of communication. Most of all, they provided the eco-friendly solutions that are viable in the long term.

natural communication

Pursuit of a Sustainable Communication

Since human beings are born into a society, they knew about the value of communication for a peaceful co-existence. They wanted such a semblance even in the devices that they make for communication. Many years have been dedicated and thousands of dollars have been spent to find a viable option. Till now, the developers were content with the language of digital communication which radio, television, wireless internet and satellites use for mutual contacts. This language has come in the forms of cumbersome numbers made of ones and zeroes. There has to be a lot of infrastructure dedicated to this. Now, the communication scientists have come forward with a new line of communication that is quite common in the biochemical world. This new communication is through a single molecule or a mixture of simple molecules.

Evolution of Biochemical Communication

In nature, a single molecule or a group of molecules can tell the microbes about the location of the food. Similarly, a plant can understand when it would be attacked or animals know when it is mating time for them, etc., with the help of these small molecules that are released from a source. In a nutshell, the immense amount of information is passed on to other organisms through the dispersal of these molecules. A group of international scientists, including Shannon Oslon from Bengaluru-based National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) have quantified this communication route to develop future nano communication devices. The team of scientists from the premier research institute of India has developed a prototype communication device using the pheromones found in moths. In nature, the female moth releases minute packets of pheromones over several metres to attract a male for mating.

intercellular communication

Designing of Biochemical Communication Device Prototype

The team has developed the electronic components that mimic four stages of biochemical communication – production, transmission, detection and processing – to decipher the chemical signal. A tiny micro-reactor produces a cocktail of communication molecules that have the same characteristics of the pheromones found in nature. The second stage of the biochemical communication is mimicked by a small silicon-glass evaporator that disseminates the signal molecules. This stage replicates the role of glands of a female moth in spreading the chemical in a regulated manner. When the male moths were exposed to such a condition in a lab, they behaved like they would in a natural habitat under similar situations.  After finding the response, the team developed a chemo-receiver to process the signal in a proper manner. This chemo-receiver is modeled on the olfactory receptor found in a fruit fly or Drosophila. The software associated with the chemo-receiver is modeled on the neural activity that gets triggered in the tiny brain of the fruit fly. These parts worked in unison to provide the same level of response that is seen natural habitat. With the development of a working prototype, the days are not that far off wherein people use much cheaper and compact biochemical devices for effective communication.

physiology of communication
Thuruvananthapuram California, USA