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Lost Scents: AI’s Olfactory Time Machine

Lost Scents: AI’s Olfactory Time Machine
Lost Scents: AI’s Olfactory Time Machine

In the mystical world of fragrance, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as an unexpected sorcerer. Beyond its conventional applications, AI now wields the power to concoct perfumes based on chemical blueprints. But its magic extends further: AI might just be the guardian of elusive scents—those at risk of fading into oblivion. From ancient incense used in sacred rituals to the whispers of a forest transformed by climate change. 

The Chemistry of Scent

Idelfonso Nogueira and his team embarked on an aromatic quest. They dissected existing perfumes, categorizing them into scent families. These families, described by subjective terms like “spicy” or “musk,” form the very essence of perfume classification. Additionally, they introduced the concept of “odour value,” quantifying the intensity of specific smells. Picture a fragrance that scored highest in the “coumarinic” family—a scent akin to vanilla—while another excelled in the “alcoholic” family.

AI’s Molecular Ballet

To recreate fragrances, AI needed to learn the molecular choreography behind each scent. Researchers fed a neural network a database of known molecules associated with fragrance notes. The AI mastered the art of composing molecular symphonies that aligned with the odour scores for each scent family. This digital alchemy bridged the gap between science and artistry.

Beyond Molecules: The Dance of Smell

Yet, mere molecules could not capture the full magic. Our perception of fragrance transcends chemistry—it’s multisensory. When we spray a perfume, its “top notes” tantalize our senses. But these ephemeral notes dissipate within minutes, leaving behind the enduring “base notes.” AI had to account for this olfactory choreography.

Evaporation’s Whispers

The team selected AI-generated molecules that mirrored the evaporation patterns of the original fragrances. Just as a forest’s scent changes with rising temperatures, so do the volatile compounds in perfumes. By capturing the fleeting magic of top notes and the lingering embrace of base notes, AI aimed to recreate scents authentically.

From Incense to Eternity

Imagine AI as a time-traveling perfumer, capturing the essence of ancient temples and preserving incense used in millennia-old rituals. Picture it resurrecting the vanishing fragrance of a forest adapting to climate shifts. As AI refines its olfactory prowess, we stand on the precipice of an eternity of scents waiting to be unlocked.


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