The Science Behind the Heavenly Smell of Old Books
We’ve all been known to take a furtive whiff from the pages of an early addition while looming in the stacks or in the corner of an old bookstore. Fastcoexist published a story that examines the science behind that mysterious olfactory goodness:
But what causes these smells? A UK chemist and teacher who runs the blog Compound Interest, an exploration of everyday chemical compounds, went to investigate and came up with an infographic to explain the matter.
That “new book smell” is a combination of the volatile compounds released from ink, bookbinding adhesives, and the paper itself. There isn’t much existing research that looks into these aromas. Because of the variation in chemicals and the hundreds of compounds that go into the process, the exact smells are hard to pin down, the blog notes.
A larger body of research has examined the causes of old book smell, mostly because people use smell as one way to assess the age and condition of older volumes. The smell, the blog says, is caused by the chemical breakdown of lignin and cellulose compounds in the paper, which give off a wide variety of organic compounds, including those with smells described as being reminiscent of almonds, vanilla, floral, and sweet. Furfural, one byproduct, is often used to date the publication of old books.
Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here: adafruit.com/editorialstandards
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.
Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.