Making scents for everyday consumer products and creating perfumes and colognes is just as much of a science as it is art. Materials and combinations of materials that become building blocks in designing scents that enrich our daily lives, experiences, and impressions truly are miracles of modern science and a result of hard work by many people who make up the fragrance industry. From collecting natural scents, to replicating scents found and collected in nature, to discovering and designing new and previously unheard of aromatic molecules or recipes for mixing them, and most importantly evaluating the safety of fragrance materials and final formulations. This page is dedicated to the science that goes behind accomplishing these.
Whether it is…
- highly sophisticated extraction techniques of essences from natural materials
- highly effective and new methods of synthesis of fragrance materials
- blending fragrance materials at great precision with the help of robots and computers, and
- tending to agricultural crops at the model standards of sustainability principles
…the fragrance industry holds a leading position in cutting edge science and innovation.
Fragrance Materials Safety
The safety of materials perfumers work with in designing scents is supported by the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials – RIFM – The International Scientific Authority for the Safe Use of Fragrance Ingredients.
RIFM’s robust and comprehensive science programs cover all endpoints in Human Health and Environmental Sciences. RIFM also maintains the world’s largest and most complete Database on fragrance materials such as physical – chemical, toxicological and eco-toxicological data, literature and information on safety evaluation associated with known fragrance and flavor materials.
RIFM research is supported by industry and evaluated by an independent panel of international experts in toxicology, dermatology, environmental and respiratory science.
RIFM also offers to the fragrance industry community education and guidance on scientific, safety and regulatory issues that are relevant to the fragrance industry.
The industry uses a variety of modern and sophisticated techniques for processing natural ingredients. With its the roots in enfluerage – an ancient technique of extracting oils from flower petals by using fats – the evolved modern processing technics of steam distillation and cold pressing extraction for naturals allow for maximum yield and minimal waste. This is the craft that is steeped in tradition, but supported today by technology and expertise of people operating and servicing the technology with the same mission: bringing nature-born essences to life in scent formulations. Especially true when working with precious materials like rose petals or lavender flowers and many more. Science and technology is involved in ensuring fragrance consistency since weather conditions, harvesting procedures and extraction processes may affect the resulting aromatic essence.
It takes 8 thousand pounds (i.e., up to 3 to 4 thousand kilos) of rose petals to produce 2.2 lbs (about 1 kilo) of rose absolute or 2,205 pounds (i.e. 1,000 kilos) of lavender flower to produce 11 lbs. (5 kilos) of lavender essential oil.
Only the cutting edge science and dedication of those who harvest and process natural crops can make this possible, and these unique oils and essences stable and available to perfumers to work with year in and year out.
Synthesizing and Inventing New Molecules
Fragrance manufacturers often depend on natural materials in making scents. However, weather patterns, natural disasters, crop diseases and over-harvesting of natural species used in making fragrances are unpredictable factors. As a result, the industry experts are actively working to replicate scents found in nature by synthesizing them, as well as introducing methods such as natural enzymatic processes to come up with new ones. It is now possible for molecules used in today’s popular fragrances to be produced using sustainable, cutting-edge science and biotechnology. Such technology not only has a potential to replicate scents existing in nature, but also allow the discovery of completely novel materials. A complex syntheses of fragrance materials or a combination of traditional processing techniques in new formats and applications result in scents that brighten our lives, bring back memories and create our future.
Manufacturing and Compounding
The modern fragrance manufacturing facilities of IFRANA members these days look and feel more like factories for manufacturing medicine and no longer resemble old-times perfumers’ studios. The fragrance industry workers and materials they work with must be handled with great care. Strict industry rules for pristine occupational environment and employee safety as well as best manufacturing practices for handling fragrance ingredients and mixtures are observed. Several US governmental agencies also have jurisdiction over the process of fragrance creation and are regulating the fragrance makers.
To reach the level of scent sophistication required today by the consumer products companies to please their consumers, most of the fragrance compounding is done by complex robotics and computer-guided technologies. Robotics take over once the creative work of the perfumers – the industry noses – is completed and the scent is accepted and approved by the consumer product company products destined to the supermarkets’ or boutiques’ shelves.