Headspace Technology

In recent years, the need for natural material sustainable processes has emerged as a priority requirement in the fragrance industry.  Ensuring technologies are developed for enhanced extraction methods has been key to the continued availability of numerous flowers, plants and herbs for their aromatic use.  Not only for proper crop cultivation but for the affordable cost of these materials. The consumer fragrance space has put an emphasis on both natural elements as well as validating the safety of some “chemicals” used in perfume development. Countless synthetic scent options are obtained reflecting this trend through headspace technology. 

What is Headspace Technology?

Headspace analysis is a novel technology that was first employed by the fragrance industry in the 1980s. In simpler terms, headspace analysis can “smell” molecules much like the human nose can. This analysis technique measures the volatile compounds in the air surrounding an olfactive sample. The headspace olfactive sample that is studied is often a type of flower, herb or plant. The sample’s odor is released and trapped under a glass dome, called a round bottom flask. This technique allows for the cost-effective and non-destructive capture of the aroma, as the olfactive sample does not have to be removed from its natural environment and crushed or processed to release the scent elements.

Volatile compounds are compounds that have high vapor pressure and evaporate into the air easily at room temperature. Therefore, all fragrance molecules that our nose can smell are volatile compounds. The volatile compounds collected from the olfactive sample are then analyzed by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC/MS) computer software programs, to understand the chemical breakdown of the sample being tested. Based on the information received from the computer, the sample can then be reproduced in a laboratory setting.

What Does Headspace Mean In Perfumery?

Headspace is used by the perfume industry to obtain new aromatic elements from living materials. Many common fragrance materials used today were discovered using headspace technology. Headspace has allowed for further innovation in an industry that would have become stagnant without it. For example, the lily of the valley flower is a mute flower, meaning its scent cannot be extracted in substantial amounts from the flower via normal techniques. Headspace analysis is used to obtain the light watery fresh scent associated with this flower.

Similarly, headspace can and has been used by companies to determine new scents for their perfume creations. A patented version of headspace has been employed by

Givaudan. Givaudan, a well-known fragrance house, patented ScentTrek to obtain new scents from distinct parts of the world. Comparably, Firmenich has patented NaturePrint and IFF has patented Living Flower. Headspace analysis has become the norm for obtaining new scents for perfume blends. This technology will continue to provide innovation within the fragrance industry due to its non-destructive, economical and duplicative nature.