The scent of wood


 (c) Thünen-Institut/Christina Waitkus

Wood for Good ­– Context-related, mixture- and concentration-dependent effects of volatile organic compounds from different wood species on human neurophysiology and chemosensory processing

Strong odours are a frequent reason for investigations of indoor air quality. Odours are caused, inter alia, by volatile organic compounds emitted by various materials (e.g., wood products) into the ambient air.

Background and Objective

Wood-based products emit a variety of odorous volatile organic compounds (VOC). In particular softwoods can have an intensive odour. However, also hardwoods and engineered woods can have their own distinctive scent. Due to their broad application as construction material and furniture, therefore, wood products can contribute considerably to the indoor odours. Whether odours are perceived as pleasant or unpleasant, however, can be individually very different. In the current project it shall be examined how these smells affect human well-being. 

Target Group

  • Actors in the field of construction (architects, designers, wood construction companies, wood processing industries, decision makers in in the municipalities and public authorities).
  • Consumers


The essential VOC emitted from wooden products are well-known due to emission tests. But the human nose is more sensitive than the analytical measuring method for some substances. This means that the human sense of smell can detect odour-active components even below the analytical detection limit. It is important to note that the olfactory impression follows the signal processing in the brain. Therefore, the mere analytical emission measurement does not necessarily allow conclusions on how a product odour is perceived. Sensory testing of different wooden products will be performed by a panel according to ISO 16000-28. Contrary to the standard test focus, the influence of a visual and psychological context will be examined.

Our Research Questions

  • How is the odour of various wooden products evaluated?
  • Do visual cues of wooden materials vary the olfactory impression?
  • Does the odour perception differ under laboratory conditions in comparison to real indoor conditions?
  • Does the olfactory impression of wooden products differ from person to person, and what causes these differences?
  • Can the odour perception be manipulated by additional product information?


Involved Thünen-Partners

Involved external Thünen-Partners

  • Leibniz-Institut für Arbeitsforschung
    (Dortmund, Deutschland)


7.2020 - 6.2023

More Information

Projekt type:
Project funding number: 22011115
Funding program: FNR
Project status: ongoing