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Scent Transportation Emerging technologies may change the way we smell - yes, smell - new modes of communication.
Jan 1, 2015

What would it be like if, while watching a cooking show, waves of tasty aroma wafting from our television made it possible for us to smell the food being cooked? What if while watching a show about shipping, with the touch of a button, we could smell the ocean? Would it be too over the top when we already have high definition screens, three dimensional films, and even some hologram technology? Maybe not: science doesn't say, "impossible"; it just says, "too hard for now."

The dispersal of scent takes place via the thermal and light-like behavior of the fragrant particles in the air. Thousands of points, letters, and words are positioned in each and every air particle. Each molecule is created in a form to carry sounds, sights, and odor. Millions of sound waves, scents and images are being transported and translocated into each of the trillions of air particles without deforming or mixing. As our knowledge pertaining to this transport grows, new technological products that will enable the transport of odors will be offered to the service of mankind.

Our sense of smell occurs in the brain. The chemical molecules exiting a lemon peel stimulate the odor receptors in the nose, which are then transmitted to brain to be interpreted as electric signals. Our olfactory system can easily distinguish more than ten thousand scents. This has inspired scientists to design similar devices. These models are called "electronic noses."

A series of chemical receptors are utilized in the electronic nose instead of the receptor proteins of the human nose. Each of these is designed to sense various scents. These devices are difficult to produce, as the cost grows for a more sensitive device. The signals that sensors collect from the environment are converted into binary codes via electronic systems and then sent to a computer. The role of human nerve cells in charge of sensing odor is replaced by the electronic systems of a computer.

Mostly in their early phases, electronic noses are beginning to be used in various sectors, primarily those involving foods and perfumes, as well as the medical and chemical industries.

How does odor transportation take place?

As I already mentioned, the aromatic molecules transported via air particles in their gaseous state are detected by the smell sensor system and converted into electric signals. Quite a few different materials are used as conductors: conductive polymers, semi-conductive metal oxides, a quartz-crystal micro-balance (QMB), surface acoustic wave (SAW) sensors, pellistors, and infrared sensors.

Once the electric signals are converted into binary, the odor information is determined via a software program in which algorithms such as artificial nerve networks and support vector machines are employed. This information is then transmitted to a remote medium via lines of communication, such as a computer network, the internet, or another form of mobile communication. The odor type is received in the target computer. This detection stage can be completed in the target PC when necessary.

Today's technology can only permit the transmission of odor data. In order to perceive the transmitted information at the target location as smell, the scents must be present as stored in containers and must be triggered via received odor data to be dispersed. The research in this field is limited, with ongoing pilot studies.

How can diseases be diagnosed with odors?

The natural functions of the human body, such as sweat, blood, urine, and feces, can be used to help diagnose diseases. The odor of the gases in human breath holds significant information regarding body health. There are between two hundred and four hundred different gases found in human breath. Furthermore, the number of gas types detected and described in the breath can exceed three thousand. While blood gets cleaned in the lungs, the gases of the used blood pass to the breath via the alveoli. Therefore, many critical pieces of bodily information are present in the breath.

The gases exhaled through our breath are composed of various alkaline and aromatic compounds. Each of these is a potential indicator that provides information about a disease. The gases and their ratio in the breath of a healthy person are well established. Since the ratio of the gases in the breath gets altered depending on the cause of an illness - such as diabetes (Type I and II), cancer of the ear-nose-throat, tuberculosis, and women's reproductive diseases - can be diagnosed by utilizing the electronic nose.

There are other uses for the technology, too. NASA is developing a highly sensitive artificial nose for space research. This device will almost be able to distinguish every type of chemical compound, making more sensitive measurements than a human nose. With this device, the detection of harmful substances in the space station will be possible.

Google has announced that significant progress has been made regarding the "Google nose" which helped revolutionize searching for aromas. The Google Aroma database ( stores more than 15 million kinds of scent. The days when we will be able to smell the scent of any product through our internet based devices do not seem to be too distant. To make this possible, sound waves would be converted into odor signals. There is a partially-imaginary video prepared to show how this can feel.

New technologies will change our relationship with smell, which has always been deeply important to humanity. Reference is made of this in the Qur'an, especially when the Prophet Jacob of Canaan sensed the fragrance of his son, Joseph, who was hundreds of miles away. The verse, from the chapter of Joseph, reads, "Surely, I sense the fragrance of Joseph, unless you would consider me a dotard. "It shows how valuable scent is to us, as anyone who has had a long lost memory triggered by an unexpected smell understands. As the verse suggests, losing our sense of smell is akin to losing our minds. Research has borne this out, as one of the first symptoms of Alzheimer's disease is the loss of smell. In fact, monitoring loss of scent has helped with the early detection and prevention of Alzheimer's. This is yet another way that our body has been perfectly calibrated to cue us in to its messages. In this regard, as with many, technology is still trying to catch up to nature.