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Posted: May 21, 2016
Nanotechnology for the nose: scented video games
(Nanowerk News) Controlled odour emission could transform video games and television viewing experiences and benefit industries such as pest control and medicine. The NANOSMELL project aims to switch smells on and off by tagging artificial odorants with nanoparticles exposed to electromagnetic field.
The ‘smellyvision’ – a TV that offers olfactory as well as visual stimulation – has been a science fiction staple for years. However, realising this concept has proved difficult given the sheer complexity of how smell works and the technical challenges of emitting odours on demand.
NANOSMELL will specifically address these two challenges by developing artificial smells that can be switched on and off remotely. This would be achieved by tagging specific DNA-based artificial odorants – chemical compounds that give off smells – with nanoparticles that respond to external electromagnetic fields.
With the ability to remotely control these artificial odours, the project team would then be able to examine exactly how olfactory receptors respond. Sensory imaging to investigate the patterns of neural activity and behavioural tests will be carried out in animals.
The project would next apply artificial odorants to the human olfactory system and measure perceptions by switching artificial smells on and off. Researchers will also assess whether artificial odorants have a role to play in wound healing by placing olfactory receptors in skin.
The researchers aim to develop controllable odour-emitting components that will further understanding of smell and open the door to novel odour-emitting applications in fields ranging from entertainment to medicine.