The sweet smell of success?

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iol scitech dec 20 smell camera

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Work in progress: The odour-trapping device is turned on and captures the smell, but there is no cost-effective or logical way to have the scent reproduced.

London - There’s something about a smell that can take you back to a particular moment in time, in an instant.

Perhaps it’s mom’s cooking or the aftershave or perfume of a person you know. Whatever it might be, memories can immediately start flooding back.

But unlike a photo or a video, capturing a memory using scent has been impossible, until now.

Artist Amy Radcliffe has come up with a device that captures smells and then aims to reproduce them.

She explained to NBC News that the invention came about after realising that the sense of “smell” is one that is often overlooked.

“We take pictures and video of everything to be shared and stored online, but those are limited to sight and sound, so I started looking at our other senses and thinking how we might preserve the memory of these and I just happened to find smell memory extremely interesting,” she says.

“It’s so powerful and can seem to bypass all consciousness to trigger an emotional reaction.”

Radcliffe says she created the Madeleine camera, named after the little tea cakes in Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, the smell of which was so evocative to the narrator of his past that it prompted a dive into his life story.

The way it works is by placing a “bell” over the object or area to be recorded.

The air inside is passed over a reactive chemical that captures the “volatiles”, the floating particles that make up every smell.

The components could then in theory be reproduced in a lab and the scent produced could be returned to the customer like a print.

It can take a few minutes to capture the smell of some freshly cut grass, or up to an hour to collect all the tiny particles that define the odour you associate with your room.

The contraption is still in prototype stage.

“Although air is able to be captured, I have as yet been unable to test my own samples as it has been difficult to get access to a fragrance lab with the right equipment and expertise,” Radcliffe says.

It is hard to know who would create and reproduce the scents that are captured. You can’t just go to a lab and ask them to reproduce the smell of your old car.

Furthermore, the amount required to process and duplicate the chemicals might be prohibitively expensive.

“The cost would, of course, depend on the components of the smell,” Radcliffe says, “as some ingredients are problematic to get hold of, expensive or difficult to synthesise, so no matter how much you would like it, the smell of diamonds is probably not going to happen.”

For now, if you crave that smell of freshly baked bread, you’d probably best off go to a bakery. – Daily Mail

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