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Andy's weekly cafe

Our students discuss some news items related to fragrances and pheromones

As we come to a close on this week, I’d very much like to invite you to ask me some questions on what is happening in the world of chemistry, including in the area of fragrances – you may have seen some science news in the media whilst the course has been running, and this is our chance to make sure we can all stay abreast of what’s topical and how it might affect us all going forward.

Perhaps you have heard about research ensuring that fragrances in household products, from body wash to shampoos, stick to the skin instead of being washed down the drain immediately after their application. Mixing fragrances with various polymers (we cover polymers in week 4) helps the scents remain on the skin and hair – increasing their retention can mean that manufacturers won’t need to add as much fragrance oil, which may lead to lower costs for both the industry and consumers.

Or about research into developing different techniques to recover “extinct” scents from the past and to preserve those around today for the future. One method involves exposing a polymer fibre to the odour, so that the smell-causing chemicals stick to it. The sample is analysed in the laboratory by dissolving the compounds stuck to the fibre, separating them and identifying them. The resulting list of chemicals is the recipe for the scent.

Or a new line of fragrances that claims to be free of ‘toxic’ substances? An interesting claim, because, as we know, all substances (or chemicals) have the potential to be poisonous, depending on the degree of exposure. The dose is the key to the potential for adverse effects or poisoning to occur – all chemicals can be used safely by limiting the dose or exposure.

I’ll be offering this opportunity every week, so when we start, all you will see above is a placeholder (University of York) video. I’d very much like you to pose any questions you have in the Comments below or using our hashtag #FLChemistry on Twitter and/or Instagram by noon of Thursday each week – we will then create a short video which brings together some of the topics which seem most interesting and post that the next day on Friday. Don’t miss out on the chance to share what’s on your mind!

Also, as an end-of-week teaser, see if you can deduce the names of the fragrant compounds in the photomontage in the downloads section below, and identify all of the functional groups, and post your answers.

Finally, why not download a digital badge as a memento of completing the first week of our course. We have one for each week and hope you will achieve a full set!

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Exploring Everyday Chemistry

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