How Technology is Impacting Our Sensory Experiences

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The art of flavor and fragrance formulation has stayed true over the years, but technology has not stood still. Consumers’ ever-evolving tastes and attention spans, coupled with technological breakthroughs, have provided some interesting and impactful changes for our senses.

Neuroscientists are exploring the connection between the brain and our five senses. Recently, the International Society of Neurogastronomy met to discuss how to create flavor experiences for those who had lost their ability to taste as a result of medical treatments. Elsewhere, scientists have come up with some new gadgets that can recreate sensory experiences. The creators of the taste actuator—metal sensors that send an electrical current through the tongue to simulate certain tastes—are now working on artificial smell simulation via a magnetic coil that can be worn at the back of the mouth. The Scentee app can emit aromas through a small device attached to a smartphone. It is already being used by one noted restaurant to tempt customers with samples of what they can expect at their dinner. Japanese researchers have designed a 4D television, capable of emitting odors to match the show being watched. There are even suggestions that a 9D television may be possible, encompassing all five senses.

Gas Chromatography has had an impact on the F&F industry. While that separation technology continues to evolve, it will no doubt continue to play a significant role in the labs of the major flavor and fragrance houses. E-nose technology takes a variety of forms and includes Gas Chromatography, Mass Spectrometry, Optical Sensor Systems, and Infrared Spectroscopy. While some methods are better suited to particular uses and industries, all carry several key benefits. Human noses can be susceptible to fatigue and irritation therefore there have been great strides made in scent-detection technology. A new system, the Proton Transfer Reaction Time of Fight Mass Spectrometer, is particularly interesting because it can identify specific chemicals in the nasal cavity and link those to sensory perceptions. In future this could help immensely with reformulations of F&F products, allowing researchers to understand how a change will be perceived by the customer.

So what does this mean for aroma chemical ingredient suppliers? With improving technology there are more sophisticated ways of analyzing ingredients to detect off-notes or other impurities that could affect the flavor or fragrance of a product. This added information helps suppliers to know what impurities cannot be present to help customers like you develop the next great flavor or scent, on the first try.

Here at Sigma-Aldrich we strive for excellence in all categories, from our ingredients to analytical workflow tools, while embracing technology. We will help you make a safe, flavorful, and fragrant future.