Molecule of the Day

Isoamyl acetate is a nice, fruity smelling ester – like a lot of the low-molecular weight esters. For this reason, it’s used in the flavor and fragrance industry. You won’t find it in perfume, though, for two reasons. The first is that esters aren’t so hot for perfumery in general. They tend to hydrolyze down to their constituent acid and alcohol (in this case, isoamyl alcohol and acetic acid). The isoamyl alcohol will just smell like solvent; not too unpleasant, but it won’t be attractive by any means. The acetic acid will give you a rich vinegary bouquet. For these reasons, esters are usually restricted to applications where they aren’t likely to hydrolyze.

The second, more entertaining reason is that some small molecules can mean very different things in Nature depending on your perspective. In your case and mine, isoamyl acetate has a pleasant fruity smell. In the case of bees, it is among the alarm pheromones released upon stinging – an aromatic “come on down” to everyone in the vicinity to make their way over (and participate in some vigorous stinging themselves).

Comments

  1. #1 Dior
    October 10, 2006

    Is this molecule identical to the one that gives banana’s their oder? i.e. should I not eat a banana under a hive tree?

  2. #2 Dave Eaton
    October 16, 2006

    Hmm, I see the potential for mischief…

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