With summer fast approaching, the average person will probably want to ensure they’re smelling fresh. But there are times when your deodorant can malfunction.
Stepping in to give the consumer deodorant market a potential boost, researchers at the Queen’s University Belfast’s Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL) Research Centre have recently developed a novel perfume delivery system, which unleashes aroma as it detects moisture. This means that the more you sweat, the sweeter you’ll smell.
Peter Nockemann, a material chemist involved in the study eceny published in Chemical Communications, told me over the phone that the research is still a proof of concept. However, when it’s eventually taken up by industrial partners and unleashed onto the consumer market, the perfume could keep us smelling better for much longer.
So how does it work exactly? Nockemann explained that the group first latched a fragrance onto an ionic liquid compound, which is an odourless salt in a liquid state. “This fragrance can chemically bind with the ionic liquid. Once it’s attached to this liquid salt, however, it is non volatile (doesn’t evaporate easily),” said Nockemann.
Unlike normal deodorants, which release their fragrance as soon as they’re applied, Nockemann said that his research group’s fragrance would only be released once it came in contact with moisture. “The difficulty is always to slow down the release of the fragrance, as when you put on a deodorant, the fragrance immediately evaporates,” he said.
Nockemann’s group is committed to slowing the release of the fragrance, and making it depend on the presence of water. “Water breaks the bond between the ionic liquid and the fragrance, releasing the latter,” he told me. And not content with simply releasing good smells, the group’s project goes the extra mile when it comes to tackling BO. “This ionic liquid can also react with the ‘thiol’ compounds in sweat, which give it it’s bad odour,” said Nockemann. In essence, the reaction disables the thiol compound, making it lose potency—in other words, its bad smell factor.
Ionic compounds were discovered more than 100 years ago, and the concept of liquid salt has been around for a while. But Nockemann told me that popularity in ionic liquid research has only really taken off in the last 15 years. “This might be why nobody thought about this concept before,” he told me.
Nimal Gunaratne, who headed the research, noted that the ability for ionic liquid systems to release material in a controlled way is an “exciting breakthrough.” “Not only does it have great commercial potential, and could be used in perfumes and cosmetic creams, but it could also be used in other areas of science, such as the slow release of certain substances of interest,” he said in a press lease.
Yet when probed on potential future applications in other scientific areas, Nockemann remained tight-lipped. He said that he could not give any more details, for the time being, owing to concerns over patents.
While further ramifications of this slow release technique might be a mystery, here’s to hoping for a sustainable solution for our body odours in the near future.
by EMIKO JOZUKA