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January 15, 2021

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Students capture the fragrant aroma of plants

A group of students from East China University of Science and Technology has created 12 unique varieties of perfume featuring the fragrance of plants on their campus.

The team consists of students from the university’s school of chemistry and molecular engineering, and they created the perfumes after taking a course taught by Professor Wang Limin.

Wang, a lover of traditional Chinese culture and art, has been teaching a course called “Art and Chemistry,” which is open to all students, guiding them to explore the chemistry behind art. In his classes, the Chinese stringed instrument erhu, calligraphy, blue and white porcelain, picture story books and the fairy tale of 12 floral gods are connected to chemistry. Among them, the content of floral gods, aroma culture and chemistry impressed the team the most.

“We wanted to use our expertise to innovate, as our university has been encouraging us to do so,” said Tang Zhicong, a second-year master’s degree student and a member of the team. “It was a challenge as we not only decided to develop the perfumes, but also to endow them with artistic inspiration.”

According to Tang, they used cedar, wintersweet, magnolia, cherry blossom, camphor, rose, gardenia, lotus, grass, osmanthus, mandarin orange and camellia for the primary scents of their products, and gave them colorful names like “Ni Feng,” which means against the wind, “Ao Xue,” or fearless of snow, “Yu Li,” gracefully erect, “Xiao Chun,” laugh in spring, and “Tan Qiu,” explore autumn.

On the packages, they not only printed names of the perfume products, but also hand-painted patterns of the plants and words describing the month they represent and scenery of the university.

Ni Feng represents January and features cedar and sabina chinensis that can be found on the university’s campus.

“It shows the tough spirit of our students and faculty facing up to challenges,” said Tang.

Tang said they worked hard to select plants on campus that are both iconic and suitable for making perfume. They checked archives, walked around campus and talked to teachers and students to design the products and packages.

“Many teachers and students love the wisteria in front of the Youyi Canteen on the Xuhui Campus, which attracts people to take photos when it blooms every year,” said Tang. “But when making the perfume, we found its aroma was too subtle so we had to nix it.”

To transfer their ideas into real products, they studied spices, conducted experiments and interned with perfume companies.

The team now has patents for their creations and is seeking partnerships with companies and starting their own businesses.

“I feel proud to be able to combine my expertise with the aesthetic enjoyment of life,” said Yang Qingying, another team member. “The sense of achievement and happiness is beyond words. To have taken part in the whole process of research, innovation and production to create the lovely perfumes is totally unique.”

In addition to perfumes, the team has developed a kind of hand disinfectant in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The disinfectant won top prize in the Shanghai session of the “Challenge Cup” Entrepreneurship Competition for Chinese college students last summer.


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