Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, in collaboration with Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology in Korea, are trying to make smellevision a reality.
The researchers used an X-Y matrix system to minimize the amount of circuitry that would be required to produce a compact device that could generate any odor at any time. The scent comes from an aqueous solution, such as ammonia, which forms an odorous gas when heated through a thin metal wire by an electrical current. The solution is kept in a compartment made of non-toxic, non-flammable silicone elastomer. As the heat and odor pressure build, a tiny compressed hole in the elastomer is opened, releasing the odor.
The team tested their device with two perfumes, “Live by Jennifer Lopez,” and “Passion by Elizabeth Taylor.” In both cases, a tester was able to smell and distinguish the scents within 30 centimeters of the test chamber. When the perfumes were switched, the tester was exposed to coffee beans, which is the common practice for cleansing a tester’s sense of smell in perfume development.
The next steps in the research include developing a prototype and demonstrating that it is reliable enough to release odors on cue and scalable to the size needed for consumer electronics like TVs and cell phones.