Monday, May 10, 2010

Would you like a side of rice with your iPhone?

Lauren had an unfortunate mid-flight incident last week involving her phone and a can of Ginger Ale . . . the result was slightly damp, slightly sticky, and a head phone jack that was (more than slightly) not working. Since I've had the misfortune of spilling a quarter cup of coffee into my laptop keyboard, I could both feel her pain and offer a few solutions. Ironically, when one food threatens to your electronic gear another food can come to the rescue . . .

Every food product contains a certain amount of moisture. Relatively dry foods (like rice) contain lower levels of moisture (12-14%) that when place in a sealed container in sufficient quantity can control the humidity in the container headspace. This equilibrium relative humidity (%ERH) in the package is established when the dry food absorbs moisture through the headspace from the damp component. The rice in this way is acting like a desiccant that is lowering the moisture in the surrounding enviornment (think of it as a natural version of those DO NOT EAT silica gel packets you'll sometimes find in your box of new shoes).

Lauren gave her phone 36 hours in the rice bag and she was back in business and ready to fly again on Monday. In the case of my abused laptop, the N, K, and L keys were never the same. If you are ever in a similar situation, power down your electronic device as soon as possible and then get your equipment to a place where you can gently and slowly dry it out.