Sniffing out counterfeit perfume

Beautiful girl smelling perfumeSwiss scientists have developed an analytical 'nose' that can differentiate between genuine and fake perfume products.

The technique - known as electrostatic spray ionization (ESTASI) - can analyse and identify counterfeit perfumes faster than conventional methods, according to the researchers from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).
"The perfume market is growing significantly, and it is easy to find imitative fragrances of probably all types of perfume," say the researchers, who used their technique to analyse six fragrances from well-known manufacturers including Givenchy, Hermes and D&G.

Fake fragrances are usually of lower quality than authentic ones, which can damage the reputation of perfume companies and cost the cosmetic industry and consumers "significant amounts of money," they write in the journal Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry (RCMS).

Using ESTASI, the commercial fragrances were analysed and compared to a 'model' perfume made up of 10 different compounds. The results showed that the new method was able to quickly distinguish between authentic perfumes and a mock counterfeit.

ESTASI involves introducing a pulsed high voltage or alternating current high voltage to a sample, which becomes charged like a capacitor and releases ions as a spray. The ions are then analysed by a detector that records the electrical charge of each passing ion, resulting in a 'fingerprint' pattern that is unique to the tested sample and can be compared to other samples.

It has advantages over other technologies - including a related approach called electrospray ionisation (ESI) - because the samples require minimal or no chemical preparation in advance. That means ESTASI can be used as a rapid screen for samples that is "faster, real-time and … generates more data", according to the authors, led by EPFL's Prof. Hubert Girault.

The technique was able to handle perfume samples that were loaded onto commercial blotting paper, lint-free paper, store-bought perfume strips and in one case after being applied on skin.

Although still at a proof-of-concept stage, Girault and colleagues see this method eventually being applied in a wide range of areas in perfume manufacturing, including quality control and anti-counterfeiting activities.

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