The Colors of Scent

What color do you think about when you think of burned paper? Or chewing gum? Or Chanel No. 5?

The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign had a team of researchers who have developed a way to compare aromas visually using specially developed inks.

Under the lead of Kenneth Suslick, the researchers used “tiny squares of polymer film that hold 36 drops of carefully designed dyes. These pigments change colour when exposed to various chemicals. The result is a cheap system for detecting very low concentrations of gaseous compounds. The cards can be used like a physicist’s radiation dose badge to alert lab workers when they have been exposed to toxic gases.”

This developed system allows people to “detect subtle differences in complex aromas, such as coffee.”

Considering that this process would associate a color to every scent, it would be interesting to approach it from the opposite perpective: For example, what would a Monet painting smell like based on these considerations and analysis? Lavender, sea, summer and plants..?

Let us know your thoughts!


Written by Carlotta Zorzi


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