Antiperspirants reduce perspiration and deodorants conceal its associated smells, but a new perfume developed by researchers at Queen's University Belfast uses sweat to its advantage, releasing pleasant aromas when it comes into contact with moisture and trapping molecules responsible for BO.

Photo Credit: Justin Brown | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The researchers call their creation a "pro-fragrance ionic liquid with stable hemiacetal motifs." It sounds complicated, but it's pretty straightforward, conceptually. "Ionic liquid" is the fancy name for a salt that exists in a liquid state, in this case at around room temperature. When a fragrant alcohol is added to the liquid, the two form a hemiacetal. In the hemiacetal state, the compound is actually odorless. But when the compound is exposed to water (say, the moisture in your perspiration), a hydrogen molecule takes the place of the fragrant alcohol, freeing up the latter to do its job, i.e. smell good. Researchers H.Q. Nimal Gunaratne, Peter Nockemann, and Kenneth Seddon, all of Queen's University Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL), describe their creation in greater detail in the journal Chemical Communications, but this figure summarizes things nicely:

As an added benefit, the ionic liquid attracts thiols, the compounds in sweat responsible for its odor. So this "perfume release system," as the researchers call it, is actually working double duty, releasing pleasant smells and trapping bad ones simultaneously.

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According to a press release from University Belfast, the researchers are looking to tap into the personal care industry and are working with a "perfume development company," which isn't exactly surprising. But Gunaratne says he thinks the system "could also be used in others area of science, such as the slow release of certain substances of interest." Therapeutic substances, perhaps? (What do you call the disease where rainbows erupt from your armpits every time you lift your hands over your head?)

Read the full scientific study in Chemical Communications.