Odor amplifier

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The odor amplifier is a fictional invention that is described in the 1970 novel Principles of American Nuclear Chemistry: A Novel, by mechanical engineer Thomas A. McMahon. In the novel, it is invented by a character modeled on the real-life theoretical physicist Richard Feynman.

Physical appearance and mechanisms[edit]

It is described as a device that looks like a medicine dropper suspended above a beaker. Small drops of metallic mercury fall from the dropper into the beaker below.[1]

The growing drop adsorbs the faint odors of the room on its surface,...but when it falls into the beaker it gives up most of its surface area. Most of the odor is then released back into the air, but it stays in the beaker above the surface of the mercury, because odors are heavier than air.

Odor amplifier in reality[edit]

The odor amplifier, as described in the novel, is not feasible in real life. The metallic mercury droplets are not exposed in flight for long enough to acquire any perceptible odors, and, if small enough, they tend to bounce off of the liquid surface and out of the beaker. Other attempts to have similar devices (see Related devices, below) have been successful. Any device which could identify an odor and then generate more of it would also be plausible, given that the odor molecules in question were volatile enough to be easily detectable.[2]

Related devices[edit]


  1. ^ Thomas A. McMahon, Principles of American Nuclear Chemistry: A Novel (1970), Little, Brown and Company, ISBN 0-226-56110-0, p. 196
  2. ^ University page on olfaction