Indoor Environmental/Aroma Conditioning
Source: UFTO
Date: 3/31/97    Record No.: 10440
Contact: Mark E. Peltier, President
AromaSys, Inc., Minneapolis MN
tel 612-924-0730 fax 612-924-9133

Indoor Environmental/Aroma Conditioning
AromaSys, Inc, a small company in Minneapolis, uses a unique patented electrostatic device to accurately disperse liquid vapors and micro aerosols into conditioned spaces. The goal is complete environment conditioning that goes well beyond the usual control of temperature and humidity by HVAC systems.

By choice and design of the substances used, it becomes possible to accomplish several objectives, singly or in combination:

1. Pleasant aromas can influence occupants' experience, performance and behavior
2. Problem odors can be counteracted (not masked).
3. Disinfectants and fungicides can protect against indoor air contamination agents.

The company, poised for significant growth, is reviewing which strategies, business structures and allies would be appropriate for various markets and fields of use. An energy service company pursuing one or more target markets where this technology fits might see this capability as a valuable product line extension.

The Business and Technology
Virtually all other methods of liquid vaporization are inefficient and have shortcomings that result in a lack of control of the release of the desired environmental conditioning agent. They are severely limited in their ability to use a full range of scents (especially the naturally occuring ones known as "essential oils"), because different aromatic constituents have very different rates of evaporation, or volatility. This is a fundamental issue in the design of all scented or scent-related products.

AromaSys's technology overcomes this obstacle, permitting precise control of the rate of vaporization of all components simultaneously. Interestingly, the technique is modelled on the way nature does it, dispersing scents electrostatically (via geological, meteorological and biological processes). It thus becomes possible, in effect, to bring indoors a close replica of an outdoor aromatic experience, like a pine forest or a meadow of flowers. It's "high-fidelity" for the nose. Note that accurate control is vital--the nose is sensitive to a few parts per billion, and too much scent can be worse than too little.

The company sold the first systems in 1992, nearly all of which are still in use. Customers in the present installed base of over 900 sites are enthusiastic and loyal. Applications range from health care, to major hotels and casinos, to high end retail furniture and clothing stores, to office buildings and even an embassy.

The technology uses no heat, pressurized air or ultrasonics. A high DC voltage is applied to a semi-conductive capillary/filament assembly which is saturated with the scent-bearing oils. The electrostatic charge forces the release of charged aerosol or vapor droplets, which are self dispersing.

For smaller spaces, e.g. 1-2000 sq ft, a self contained unit puts the vapor directly into the surrounding area. For larger applications, e.g. a hotel lobby, or even a coliseum in one instance, the vapor is introduced in the HVAC ductwork. There is no maintenance, except for the occasional resupply of scent.

AromaSys works closely with leading scent suppliers, and has combined its technology with a sophisticated understanding of aroma and the complex interplay of pyschology, physiology and technology. The firm has developed techniques to choose and design scents appropriate for each site.

For example, the Mirage in Las Vegas wanted the lobby to gently suggest a day of lounging in the sun at the pool, so there is a very faint scent of cocoa-butter. Casino owners are convinced that profits are helped, though this is obviously difficult to quantify. A high end furniture store has a scent that makes customers want to linger and relax. Office workers appear to be more productive. Scents can be controlled and changed over the course of the day (e.g. to change the mood, or adapt to usage schedules).

The sense of smell is the most primitive of the five senses, connecting directly to instinctual parts of the brain, influencing mood, behavior and physiology. This may sound "new-age", but the practical reality -- and benefits -- are clearly demonstrable.

Generally, it can be said that aroma is simply one more design element, like lighting, acoustics, wall coverings and furniture, that make an important difference in how people experience and respond to their environment. And, as noted above, there are also direct implications for indoor air quality from a health perspective.

The technology also lends itself to a variety of other applications. In agriculture, for example, there are potential uses for outdoor odor control (e.g.hog farms), fumigation of agricultural products, and dispersion of pesticides, pheromes, attractants and repellents.