Smell is one of our most emotional senses. A whiff of something can transport us back to a place across the globe we last visited a decade ago or momentarily bring back a loved one long gone.
So just imagine what a field day TV directors would have with "smell-evisions" -- televisions that also produce scents. You could smell the perfume of the divas in soap operas, savor the briny ocean air while the stars in a drama have a heart-to-heart on the beach, and smell hot dogs when sitcom characters head to the ball park.
Smell-evision may actually soon exist, lending another meaning to the phrase "reality TV." Researchers -- led by Jongmin Kim at Samsung Electronics in Korea and Sungho Jin at the University of California, San Diego -- have conceived of a compact device that could fit on the back of a TV and produce thousands of different scents.
Their approach to devising this gadget is to create an array of individual cells, each made of a cross-linked silicone polymer (similar to Silly Putty) and filled with a different scent solution. Each is entirely sealed except for a tiny hole in the top. In the "off" mode, the hole stays closed. However, when heated, the silicone expands and pressure in the cell increases until finally, it releases a puff of scent (in gas form).
Heat would be supplied by wires laid out in a grid so they can specifically target individual containers.
Previous attempts to create similar devices were too complex and, for the sensitive electronics of televisions, too crude. Kim and Jin's instrument can respond quickly -- within 40 seconds, according to New Scientist -- and regulate the strength of the odor.
To keep the dimensions down, the scientists envision using a 100-by-100 grid, so that just 200 on/off switches could unleash 10,000 stored bouquets.
The scientists, who published their findings in the journal Angewandte Chemie, prepared a prototype that successfully re-created two perfumes -- Live by Jennifer Lopez and Passion by Elizabeth Taylor.
Photos: miamiamia and Wiley-VCH