There are some smells that immediately draw our attention, making us deeply inhale. But smelling funky odors makes your nose scrunch and your stomach churn. When bad odors linger, it seems that nothing can denote the stink bomb.
Those with sensitive nose are in for a treat. Scientists discovered a way to cancel out foul smells.
Two researchers found that chemical compounds in smells have an opposing set of odor compounds that cancel each other out, creating a "white noise" for the nose.
"This is different than traditional approaches to odor cancellation," says Dr. Lav R. Varshney, one of the researchers, who is an assistant professor in engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Instead we take advantage of the perceptual properties of human olfaction to ensure what is perceived is this white smell."
To create the white noise for odors, Varshney and his brother Dr. Kush Varshney, a researcher at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in New York created a database of scents and their matching compounds based on smell properties. They then used a computer model to match odors with their opposite compounds to eliminate the odor.
They found that a combination of 38 compounds would cancel out strong odors of onion, Japanese fermented tuna, sauerkraut and durian fruit almost entirely into a "white smell."
The findings could be used to get rid of pungent odors in real-life scenarios when cracking a window or using air freshener isn't enough.
"One application of the work is improving the indoor air quality in buildings, cars, planes, etc. by canceling malodors that are present," Lav R. Varshney says. "Another application is to transform nutritious food that picky eaters find aversive into something they find flavorful, by adding other potentially nutritious additives (since smell is the central contributor to human flavor perception). One can even consider creating 'smelltracks' for virtual reality, similar to soundtracks for movies."
While it might be easier to just spray Febreze, it's good to know that a remedy exists for sensitive smellers.
Photo Credit: Luke Price/Flickr