US scientists have investigated how our noses work and found that olfactory receptors can pick up molecular vibrations to distinguish between odour molecules.
Previously, scientists thought that a lock-and-key mechanism was operating between different olfactory receptors and molecules. But then, it was noted that people could smell the difference between deuterated and non-deuterated compounds, which have the same shape but different vibrational frequencies. This paper provides further support for a vibrationally-assisted mechanism for smell.
Read the ‘HOT’ PCCP paper:
Vibrationally Assisted Electron Transfer Mechanism of Olfaction: Myth or Reality?
Ilia Solov’yov, Po-Yao Chang and Klaus J Schulten
Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2012, Accepted Manuscript