Sniffing out product development opportunities

New technology assesses flavour release in products like supplements or OTC medicines

New technology that can identify the chemicals we sense by smell, at the moment we sense them, has been installed at RSSL. Researchers there say it will have a massive impact on developing products that smell better for longer, and foods that taste better too.

Although manufacturers know a lot about the chemicals they put in to products, they know far less about how consumers actually perceive them as smells. The Proton Transfer Reaction Time of Fight Mass Spectrometer (PTR-ToF-MS) recently installed at RSSL will change all that. It acts like an 'artificial nose', detecting and identifying the chemicals in the nasal cavity as aromas are sensed.

Critically, it can link the release of individual chemicals to actual sensory perceptions.

'There are many potential applications for this technology,' says Alex Webbe, who heads the team at RSSL that is using the device. 'We can assess flavour release in products like supplements or OTC medicines. We can determine how aromas are released over time from washing powders or fabric conditioners, or how the scents of perfumes and toiletries persist or alter once they've been applied.

'These kinds of studies will help manufacturers understand how their products really behave and whether the combinations of chemicals currently used to impart aromas are the best or longest lasting, or perhaps even working against each other. We all know that just because something smells great as you open the packet, doesn't mean it still smells great a few hours, or days down the line. This device will help explain why.'

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