When Bacteria Talk: Time Elapse Communication for Super-Slow Networks

Bhuvana Krishnaswamya,Caitlin M. Henegarb, J. Patrick Bardillc, Daniel Russakowb,Gregory L. Holstb, Brian K. Hammerandc, Craig R. Forestb, and Raghupathy Sivakumara
aSchool of Electrical and Computer Engineering,
bGeorge W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering,
cSchool of Biology,
Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA

IEEE International Conference on Communications, Budapest, Hungary, 9-13 June, 2013.


In this work we consider nano-scale communication using bacterial populations as transceivers. We demonstrate using a microfluidic test-bed and a population of genetically engineered Escherichia coli bacteria serving as the communication receiver that a simple modulation like on-off keying (OOK) is indeed achievable, but suffers from very poor data-rates. We explore an alternative communication strategy called time elapse communication(TEC) that uses the time period between signals to encode information. We identify the severe limitations of TEC under practical non-zero error conditions in the target environment, and propose an advanced communication strategy called smart time elapse communication (TEC-SMART) that achieves over a 10x improvement in data-rate over OOK.

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