My Nuffield Research Placement at Treatt
In the summer of 2018, I completed a Nuffield Research Placement for 4 weeks at a company called ‘Treatt’ in Bury St Edmunds. At Treatt, there is a small community of scientists who work together to produce flavourings and fragrances which can be found in foods, beverages and scents around the world. Based in several countries around the world, it is likely that most people will have encountered their products before.
During my 4 weeks at Treatt, I completed a scientific investigation where I used professional equipment to complete research and collect data. The title of my investigation was ‘Key Components in Sweet Orange Oil’. Components in the orange oil would be identified as ‘key’ if they had a low odour detection threshold as well as a high odour intensity in oil dilutions. The key components from my research are: 1,8-cineole, myrcene, linalool and octanal (although I also concluded that alpha pinene, decanal and ethyl butyrate are fairly important components too). By completing this research, flavour and fragrance developers could use it to decide which chemicals are required to make the most accurate orange flavours or scents.
As well as using professional laboratory equipment, the main technique I used to complete the investigation was GCMS (gas chromatography – mass spectrometry). Although using this technique was very new and unfamiliar, it was very beneficial as it gave me an understanding of organic chemistry analytical methods that are required for my A-level chemistry course. The GCMS also had an ODP (olfactory detection port), which presented the scent of each chemical as it was detected by the GCMS. After learning the scent of 11 chemicals found in sweet orange oil, I calculated their odour detection thresholds using the GC. I also used the GC to find the components which had the highest odour intensity in orange oil dilutions. By using these techniques, I concluded what the key components in orange oil are. As well as using typical chemistry equipment, I also used some more unique and fun methods to obtain the results. Firstly, the concept of learning the scents of orange oil chemicals is something which was very new to me – although smelling and tasting chemicals would never be allowed in labs at college, this is something which Treatt has to do every day for quality control purposes. It took a while for me to adapt and learn each of the 11 scents, since I had never done this before. Secondly, I used a software called ‘Dragon’ whilst testing samples on the GC. When I smelled a particular chemical, I spoke to the Dragon to describe its scent. This was then recorded on a graph against the gas chromatogram.
After completing the research placement, I would highly recommend it to any Year 12 students aspiring to do a science or social science subject in the future. The research itself was very fun and something quite unique – after doing things like smelling orange oil components for 4 weeks, I have realised the variety of chemistry careers available! There are a large variety of placements available for students and the research is something new and exciting (especially since I would never have done a project like this in my chemistry lesson)!
Emily Dwane, Year 13 student@ONE
If you are interested in a Nuffield placement - here is a link to the website for more information