New Smell That Masks All Odors: Olfactory White

Written by Mike Awada on . Posted in Business, Science, Technology


Image courtesy of Konstantin Yolshin/Alamy

Scientists have discovered a new smell that is “fragrant, chemical, perfumery, aromatic, floral, soapy, sweet, fruity and medicinal” yet indistinguishable all at the same time.

A “fundamental” discovery. -Donald Wilson of NYU’s Langone Medical Center

If you combine a diverse number of light wavelengths together, you create the color white. If you combine a number of different frequencies of sound, you give birth to white noise. But what happens when you combine a diverse selection of smells together?

The White Smell

The human nose can easily distinguish between thousands of different odors due to our hundreds of odor receptors, and because of that, “one might imagine that the more odors are added, the more special the odor would become, yet what we show is the opposite.” -Prof. Noam Sobel

“If we apply these same conditions (mixing soundwaves and mixing lightwaves) to odorant mixtures, whiteness emerges in olfaction as well. The brain cannot characterize or identify a particular smell,” -Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel

The Laurax Experiment

The scientists, working with hundreds of different smelling molecules, formed a number of concoctions consisting of up to forty combined scents. They referred to the most extreme mixtures as ‘laurax’.

None of the laurax scent recipes had even one ingredient in common, yet “the more components there were in each of two mixtures, the more similar the smell of those two mixtures became, even though the mixtures had no components in common”

Olfactory White, the nasal equivalent of white noise, had been born.

The Future for Olfactory White

The biggest news out of this discovery is what role this new white smell could serve in the world.

As a quick experiment, the researchers combined the olfactory white mixture composed of forty different smell molecules, with the smell molecules of a rose. The result? The rose smell was completely masked. This scent masking capability would seem to open up an endless array of commercial possibilities for olfactory white.

The discovering team plans to now study the effects of the neutral small of laurax on brain activity. Moving forward, the team has also submitted a patent for a “wide range of different applications”. Smells like they’ve found a winning combination. ;-)

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences via Nature



Tags: , , , , , ,

Trackback from your site.

Comments (3)

  • Mimi


    Although the newly opened restaurant next to my office, ‘True Foods’ has the most deliciously aromatic selections on their menu, combined, they do not smell so great and it is overwhelming…I need Laurax


  • Observer


    Would a rose by any other name still smell in the forest if no one could distinguish it from the other smells? What does this mean to those suffering from allergies? Great idea albeit a bit mind boggling, whats that smell?


  • Sprant


    When I’m at camp, I’ll crush a lavender flower into my mustache on my way to the outhouse. Works.


Leave a comment