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Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

As Smelled on TV

What if you could smell the cheesy slices of pizza being eaten by your favorite television characters?

Researchers at UC San Diego, in collaboration with Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Korea, have demonstrated that it is possible to generate odor, at will, in a compact device small enough to fit on the back of your TV.

The UCSD team tested their device with the perfumes "Live by Jennifer Lopez" and "Passion by Elizabeth Taylor" and a human tester was able to distinguish the scents within 30 centimeters of the test chamber.

Sungho Jin, a professor at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, and his team of graduate students used an X-Y matrix system in order to minimize the amount of circuitry that would be required to produce a compact device that could generate any odor at any time. The scent comes from an aqueous solution such as ammonia, which forms an odorous gas when heated through a thin metal wire by an electrical current.

The next steps include developing a prototype that releases odors on cue and is scalable to TVs and cell phones. And that's nothing to sniff at.

—Catherine Hockmuth