Scent and taste of chemicals

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Offline Psycho

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Scent and taste of chemicals
« on: 27/11/2003 09:37:03 »
I was looking for some information about the influence of the 3D structure of molecules on their scent- and tastequalities, and some questions came to mind, such as: "What part of the acetic acid molecule is responsible for the characteristic smell of vinegar?".
Are there specific moleculestructures that are responsible for a chemical's scent and taste? If so, could someone give me some specific examples? [?]
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Offline Ylide

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Re: Scent and taste of chemicals
« Reply #1 on: 28/11/2003 09:16:03 »
While I don't have a complete answer for you, maybe I can add a little bit of insight.  

You're correct in that the shape of the molecule is what causes the effect of not only scent but taste.  The receptors for each are similar, which is why many things smell similar to the way they taste.  The smells of organic molecules are caused by not only the size and structure of the molecules, but the functional groups attached as well.  (hydroxyl, carboxyl, amino, etc)   Esters for instance are quite strong and varied in scent.  Most artificial scents in things like air fresheners, perfumes, and even foods are due to esters.  Certain carboxylic acids can also be quite pungent, for instance vinegar.  If you've ever smelled propionic acid, (same thing as vinegar but 1 carbon longer) is smells very similar.  One more carbon added on to that and you have butyric acid, which smells like essence of dirty feet.  Amines as a whole all smell rather nasty....most naturally occuring bad smells you can think of are most likely amines.  Methyl , ethyl, and isopropyl alcohol all smell slightly similar, and they should, because they're very close to each other in structure and have the same functional group.  

All this probably raised more questions for you, so hopefully one of the docs can respond and talk more about the olfactory receptors and why certain functional groups and shapes stimulate them the way they do.

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