Scientists Have Found a Way to Stream Wireless Data Through Beef and Pork

A team of researchers from the University of Illinois has developed a new transmission technique called "meat-comms."

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Apr 16 2016, 2:00pm

Ever looked at a pork loin or beef liver and wondered, "Could I pump enough wireless data in there to stream HD video?" Probably not. But luckily for humanity, there are researchers out there asking themselves that very question.

Andrew Singer and a team of researchers from the University of Illinois have developed a new transmission technique called "meat-comms." This digital upgrade could one day allow doctors to communicate with medical implants at unprecedented speeds—and it's all thanks to a couple of chunks of meat.

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Until now, medical professionals wanting to send data to implants were confined to using radio waves, which have a hard time penetrating the human body's soft tissue. But the University of Illinois team has broken the skin barrier by using pork loins and beef livers as test materials for wireless data.

To add another layer of scientific weirdness to this story, the impetus for this experiment was actually Singer's background designing ultrasound technology for US Navy submarines. Ultrasound is already used for certain surgeries, but Singer realized that ultrasonic waves, which are less dangerous than radio waves, could also be used to transfer data.

"You're a big bag of salt water, with some bones and some other tissues," Singer told New Scientist. "Communicating in the ocean and communicating in your body are very similar."

In order to test this hypothesis, the scientists submerged both the pork loin and beef liver in a water tank and found that ultrasonic data passed through the meats at a staggering 30 megabits per second—1000 times faster than radio.

So what are the practical implications of this? "You could stream Netflix through the pork loin," says Singer. That's pretty cool, but thankfully there are also practical medical uses. If trials are successful, doctors may one day able to send software updates directly to medical implants without any surgery at all. Though it's a long way off, this pork loin and beef liver may one day remembered for helping us merge with the machines.