The extraction of fragrant organic compounds from flowers
- Olive oil or a related oil (such as corn oil or sesame oil)
- A bunch of flowers
- Jars – with lids
- Measuring spoons/measuring cups.
Step one: select your flowersAlmost all flowers should provide a result, though, for some, it might be a very faint one. Feel free therefore to pick your favourite flower, try one of the ones that we attempted, or maybe even try a herb if flowers aren’t your thing!We attempted the experiment with three different types of flowers (roses, lilies and carnations) and found that the most intense and obvious smell came from the roses, which happened to be the least pungent at the start of the process; if your flowers don’t smell too floral when you pick them therefore, they should still work quite well.
Step two: pick off the petalsFor this step, the important parts of the flower are the petals, so pull those off and use your fingers – or a pestle and mortar – to crush and bruise them before putting them into a jar (or anything that you can stopper to keep airtight).
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Exploring Everyday Chemistry
Step three: add the oilYou now need to add a known volume of oil (we used extra virgin olive oil, but you could try other less pungent oils such as corn oil or sesame oil) to the petals, in order to be able make up known dilutions and observe how/if the concentration of flower oil changes the pleasantness of the smell.We recommend a minimum of 50 mL of oil so that you have enough flowery oil to complete the required dilutions.When you have added enough oil to cover all the petals – remember to accurately make a note of the volume of oil that you have used – stopper the bottle/jar and give it a good shake. You need to make sure that all the petals are covered in oil and that you have shaken the oil-flower mixture until is all properly mixed in together.
Step four: leave your flower mixture for 24 hoursWhen your mixture is fully covered in oil, you need to seal the bottle and leave it somewhere dark for 24 hours. After this time, the scents from the flowers should have been fully absorbed by the oil and you should be able to smell something flowery… instead of just olive oil!
Step five: drain your flowers and strainAfter 24 hours have passed, you can remove your jars from the dark and take off the lids.Use a strainer to drain the flower petals, collect the oil in another container, and then use a spoon to press down on the petals against the strainer so that you can collect as much of the flowery scented oil as possible.
Step six: record your resultsWhen you have collected your flowery oil, don’t forget to record what you smell. For example, use words like:
Exploring Everyday Chemistry
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