The acid test

By Mark Schrope A MAGNETIC pill that can be interrogated by radio could one day tell doctors how acidic your stomach contents are. This would be a boon for people with ulcers, who currently have to endure having a tube stuck down their throat so their stomach pH can be measured. Developed by researchers at the University of Kentucky, the “pill” consists of a tiny piece of magnetic tape coated with a polymer. The coating expands and contracts in response to small changes in pH, distorting the magnetic tape. When stimulated by an external magnetic field, the magnetic tape emits radio waves at frequencies that depend on its shape, revealing what the pH is, says team leader Craig Grimes. Sensor readings can be taken from more than a metre away, he says. Different ceramic coatings will let them measure other factors such as viscosity, pressure or humidity. Another of the numerous applications the team is working towards, which they will soon describe in the journal Sensors and Actuators A,
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