Common Scents

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Learners use a mortar and pestle to extract clove oil from cloves using denatured alcohol. They put this oil on paper, which they can take home. Learners discover that the chemicals that produce smells are soluble in alcohol, which is why the alcohol can extract the scent from the cloves. Learners also have the opportunity to create other scented papers using essential oils that have been previously prepared. Great for a unit on senses, a unit on the perfume industry, or a unit on medicine. This activity is currently used in the Biochemistry Unit in OMSI's Chemistry Lab. Cost estimates are per 100 learners. For safety reasons, this activity works best as a demonstration for younger audiences.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 250 ml squirt bottle
  • denatured alcohol (keep 500 ml on hand)
  • Plant materials – vanilla, cinnamon, citrus fruit peels, herbs (rosemary, sage, fennel, etc)
  • 24-test tubes and appropriately-sized rack
  • 100 ml beaker
  • cloves (keep large container on hand)
  • mortar and pestle
  • 200 ml tall beaker
  • plastic pipettes
  • chromatography paper (or good quality filter paper)
  • small container for paper
  • waste container


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Bioengineering/Biomedical Engineering
      • Manufacturing Engineering
  • Life Sciences
    • Human Body
      • Medicine
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Smell
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemistry of Life
      • Solutions

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • smell
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation