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Engineering notes for KTF rainbow scent computer
© Lyndsay Williams 2011 13 November 2011 Draft V2

Note this document is a Hypertext document with links to references and videos and so printing is not recommended.

This is a draft version, please let LW know of any omissions.

KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011



In 2010, Lyndsay Williams, Managing Director of Girton Labs, Ltd Cambridge, was asked by Jenny Tillotson (PI) to assist in a grant application for KTF for a scent system. Williams had previously designed fragrant Sensebooks in 2007-2008 as financed by East of England Development Agency and covered here in the Guardian Newspaper. The NEW KTF grant was to allow technology transfer of existing scent emission system to a pendant and sleep computer. Central Saint Martins University employed Williams as an electronic engineer and Senior Research Fellow for the engineering part of the project from June 2010. Williams was responsible for electronic engineering, firmware and microcontroller system design and the mechanical engineering was done by Raymond Oliver (COI) and team.

Existing technologies

Nichrome heaters

SenseBook, nichrome matrix heater from Girton Labs Ltd and Associates, East of England Development Agency funded project, 2008. This was an interactive herb and spice cookery book. When pages of the book were opened an optical sensor was used to detect an open page, a warm lamp (LED) was lit up on the page, and fragrance was emitted which corresponded to the herb or spice. This was useful to help people choose a herb or spice for cooking by associating the fragrance smell with the image of spice. A flickering flame was simulated in software using a LED. The circular tabs below are moveable vents for the fragrance to be attached via a “living hinge”.

Sensebook prototype

KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011


Example of Herb Cookery Book from Google Images

Turning a page stopped and started the fragrance emission , by (a) blocking fragrance by the closed page (b) the optical sensor controlling the microcontroller heating of the scent and (c) MEMs accelerometer sensor to detect orientation of book in space. The heater system consists of an x/y matrix of nichrome wire heaters, with essential oils stored in a cavity created by a 3D printer. A PIC 18FXX microcontroller and Darlington transistors were used to heat nichrome wire and resistors. AAA batteries in the spine make the book compact and elegant. The use of an x/y matrix allows minimal signals to be used from a microcontroller and so reduce cost and size.

X,Y heater matrix

An example is a 3 x 3 matrix allows 9 heaters and 4 x 4 matrix allows 16 heaters. The book had a capacity of 256 fragrance samples using just 16 control lines in an 8 x8 matrix. The LEDs were based on a Red Green Blue LED which used software mixing to get multiple colours.


KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011

4 This would allow warm amber for Frankincense, green for wood, red for a spice and other permutations. This would allow the “rainbow” effect of multiple colour for scents as requested by KTF project spec. The system was tested by Girton Labs on oils such as lavender and Frankincense . A system using a disposable cartridge, like a toy cap gun was proposed. This disposable cartridge system may be useful in future fragrance systems.

Girton Labs LoC 3D printed reservoir, 2011, with oil storage wells

Sensebook is inspired by the incense clock as here, invented by the Chinese over 1000 years ago.

Fragrance clock image from here

Example of circular gunpowder caps

KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011


Girton Labs Ltd example of sensing computer, Royal Mail stamp showed for scale

The use of nichrome wire as a reliable and small system for heating fragrances is well known , example here and patent reference here. “ A lightweight, portable device maintains at a warm temperature a quantity of animal scent,
particularly animal urine, which is used by hunters to attract animals. A battery operated heating element surrounding a chamber which removably (sic) receives a vial of the liquid scent maintains the temperature of the liquid above freezing when the device is used outdoors in cold weather, and preferably heats the scent to a temperature which closely imitates the fresh presence of live deer. “

A demo of an orange nichrome heater using a diesel Glow Plug was demonstrated to the PI in 2010. Some more work was needed on controlling temperature and heater feedback and this has now been designed. Johnson & Johnson ultrasonic nebuliser This is a proven working scent distribution system but would possibly be too large for pendant use but satisfactory for the bedside sleep computer. The reservoir could be made smaller however.

InkJet Technology KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011

6 This was a system using Inkjet, computer controller developed by Williams and the inkjet system PI’s mechanical engineer in 2010. The system worked but there were some problems with reservoir leakage that were not solved at the time but could be with an airlock design, see later in document.

Prototype inkjet scent computer

KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011


Girton Labs 3D printed Lab on a Chip Feb 2010

Girton Labs PIC based scent sensing computer 2010.

Some of above working technologies (nichrome, inkjet, ultrasonic) were suggested to be used for the KTF project by LW but declined by the PI. No financial or licensing issues were discussed. There were technical issue re lingering of heated smells and non precise doses as required for the medical applications. These problems have been fixed in the later Sensebadge designs, see end of document. The “living hinge” stops the lingering smell problem, and a precisely manufactured 3D printed reservoir controls the volume of solid or oil to presented to the heater. The PI & COI decided to use Lab on a Chip technology as this would allow precise microfluidic control of liquids and mixing. LoC could also provide the reservoir design. This LoC took several months development by the mechanical engineers including Epigem to get to a stage where a specification could be prepared by LW for the microcontroller interface. KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011


Microcontroller requirements The final scent mechanical system was provided as designed by Raymond Oliver & Epigem Ltd. This was a Lab on a Chip and worked well as can be seen on video as in later pages in this document. The microcontroller is used to switch on a Bartels micro pump , and then control a heater to disperse scent. The timing details of this are covered in the C++ source code, but approximately 300ms was used to switch on the pump, and 10 seconds to control the heater. It could be seen that precise amounts liquid estimated to within 1% could be delivered by the pump. The exact volume delivered by the pump could be calculated as follows.

Pump on for 300ms, 5mm of liquid movement measured. A cylinder with radius r units and length h units has a volume of V cubic units given by

The diameter of the cylinder was 2 * r mm. (COI to advise actual diameter of Epigem LoC cylinder).

The triggering of the scent was to be done by detection of human stress as measured by an accelerometer and a heart rate sensor. This was prior research and was IP developed by LW at Microsoft Research in approx 2001. It was noted in tests that heart rate would increase with stress. An accelerometer was used to eliminate signals from physical movement that increased the heart rate. An example on the chart in above link shows the stress caused by reading the contents of an email.

Stress sensor design. This is based on an ADX335 3 channel accelerometer as here and Galvanic Skin Response Sensor for Arduino as here. Here is another GSR circuit that was evaluated. Here is an example of an Arduino heart rate monitor. Due to limited days remaining in the contract in September (time was allocated at only 1.5 day/week for engineering) it was suggested by LW to use Galvanic Skin Response rather than developing a heart rate sensor but the PI and CIO choose not to have this implemented . KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011


Microcontroller choice The use of a PIC, ARM or Atmel microcontroller was considered. Main requirements was minimum specification of micro to meet small size, low power requirements , analogue sensing and control mechanical actuators. The 8 bit Atmel microcontroller ATMEGA168 was chosen as the Arduino Pro Mini platform allowed for rapid prototyping of the system using C++ and existing libraries on the internet. The processing power of a 32 bit ARM was not required by the KTF spec. Here is a Bill of Materials for the final scent computer design. Battery choice. This had to have a very small and thin form factor and the battery used was similar to as used in the iPod nano , a rechargeable Li Poly 3.7V 300mAhr battery, image below.

The next image shown is the final design of control electronics from LW.

KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011


Schematic of microcontroller circuit 10 Oct 2011

March 2011 PIC version

KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011


Arduino scent computer August 2011

June 2011 sketch of scent pump

KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011


3D CAD design of Scent computer before fabrication on PCB

PCB 40 x 60 mm

Left to right, PCB with Arduino Microcontroller , Li Poly Battery. On RHS is the Epigem LoC pump with Bartels pump. KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011

13 “Rainbow” LEDs are discrete red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, white. A single RGB led would have been able to create many more colours but was not used.

Underneath the main PCB is the accelerometer PCB as here.

Side view showing sandwich construction , from top to bottom, PCB, battery, LoC board

Here is a video of LoC scent working.

Please email Lyndsay Williams for permission to view this as is hosted on Youtube (but not public) . Currently the following have been given permission for viewing, Jenny Tillotson, Raymond Oliver, Jane Gibbs, Carole Gibbons.

KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011

14 Potential leaking issues The final Epigem LoC pump performed well as can be seen on video. There were no leakage problems noticed. If however these are in issue in future, e.g. inverting the pump when worn on the moving body, the leakage can possibly be fixed by use of an airlock , as designed into the Lab on a Chip . Prior art of this method is as used on fermentation locks and also aircraft avionics with lead acid batteries. As an aircraft can invert in flight, the lead acid batteries must not leak acid and so an airlock is used.

Example of an airlock , the fold over is not required, only shown for compact designs.

This airlock can be fabricated using 3D printing.

Firmware The firmware was created using Arduino C++ compiler. Here is a code fragment of C++ /Arduino instruction to switch the pump on for two seconds and then switch off.

digitalWrite(MOSFET, LOW); delay (2000); digitalWrite(MOSFET, HIGH);

The full source code was emailed to PI & COI October 2011.

KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011


Girton Labs PSOC and future electronic fragrance technology

The Cypress Programmable System on a Chip will allow most of a fragrance circuit design to be integrated on just one semiconductor. This can include microcontroller, MOSFET driver, heart rate, GSR, accelerometer interface, power management and analogue interface. This will allow a much smaller PCB as analogue and digital components are integrated onto one piece of silicon. Rapid prototyping can be achieved as the FLASH memory (including analogue components such as opamps) can be reprogrammed in about 30 seconds as opposed to the >48 hour cycle of PCB manufacture . PSOC will also allow a custom IC to be designed and any propriety design information to be kept confidential within the chip. PSOCs can be powered from 0.5V , i.e. solar powered and the cost starts at 66p, (100 off) for the simplest variant. The ARM variant used by Girton Labs has up to 60 I/O ports including analog which allows up to 60 sensing inputs for Sensebooks. The built in MOSFET power drivers in the PowerPSOC series allow very small heater drivers to be included on the chip. The PSOC also allow non touch proximity triggering of actuators from a distance of a few cm. Multiple PSOC proximity sensors will allow left to right hand gestures etc, technology here, CapSense, but via a large air gap.

KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011


Image here of Girton Labs PSOC firmware design reading sensors ,the ARM PSOC is approx. 8 x8 mm and in bottom right hand corner. PCB by Cypress Semiconductors. Girton Labs will be continuing research with PSOC based Sensebooks, using nichrome heaters and other designs of Lab on Chip. The oil well will be fabricated in transparent acrylic as image below with the new airlock design to prevent leaks. The transparent case also allows light shading and mixing of Red Green Blue LEDs to allow multicolour light cycling displays. Here is demo video in Girton of similar, note only 12 Watts power is used, i.e. can be used on batteries. Here is an example using an Atmel microcontroller, the same as used in KTF project, video link here.

Transparent 3D design for LoC

KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011

17 Girton Labs 3D CAD design of PSOC scent badge, size 30mm diameter Girton Labs has produced several 3D CAD designs and has the facilities to fabricate in many materials including ABS, steel, silver, aluminium, ceramic, glass. These designs generally take about 2 hours to design, the files emailed to Shapeways in Eindhoven and a solid model delivered to Girton Labs. This is an efficient use of time, very low cost method to design jewel enclosures rather than hand building metal models.

Example of a 10 minute design for a sensing system, Girton Labs 2009

Below Rotating 3D sense model – need Java plug in

The below Girton Labs SenseBadge Example shows a 3D model of an electronic frangrance system . The multiple cartridge of fragrances is enclosed within the case. The computer selected multiple fragrances are heated inside the chamber . After a few seconds of mixing in this chamber a “living hinge” using Shapeways ABS printed 3D case , opens. It is opened by use of Flexinol wire controlled by the micocontroller. A single RGB LED lights up the enclosure to compliment the smell with an appropriate colour, red is shown here. Here is a video of inspiration of the living hinge, first created in approximately the early 1960’s. The living hinge should prevent the lingering effect of the smell. A precise dose of fragrance can be delivered by measuring the temperature of the oven using a thermopile. This can measure temperature within a few milliseconds unlike a thermocouple. It is standard technology as used in modern microwave cooker for non contact tempwrature sensing.

KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011


The PSOC software design, mechanical 3D CAD and SenseBook, SenseBadge design was designed and funded by Girton Labs Ltd and Associates and EEDA , Girton Labs own the IP rights. The work of future Sensebadges etc is on going at present and will continue in 2012.

Project end

Lyndsay Williams choose to resign from UAL on Sept 25th 2010 due in part to financial issues with CSM.

KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011


Table 1

KTF Engineering Report Lyndsay Williams 13th November 2011