Monday, November 9, 2020

3M invented scratch-and-sniff?

 Via the New York Times, a fun article by Caity Weaver about a $590 scratch-and-sniff luxury T-shirt delved into the pioneer of this technology:  

...Scratch-and-sniff is a feature, a deed and a technology derived from the experiments of Gale Matson, a chemist who grew up in a small town in Minnesota and later went to work for his local global manufacturing conglomerate, the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. One of Mr. Matson’s first tasks after joining the company was to refine the practice of producing ink copies of documents without the use of messy black carbon paper. While tweaking a manufacturing technique known as microencapsulation in 1966, he invented what we now know as scratch-and-sniff.

Its basic concept is this: A bunch of itty-bitty plastic-coated balls, filled with scented substance, can be made to rupture with light physical contact (Mr. Matson suggested “fingernail pressure”), releasing their scent into the air.

Mr. Matson’s patents describe how he created capsules filled with “one part perfume oil and two parts diethyl phthalate,” and coated them onto a sheet of paper. The paper remained odorless until the capsules were scratched open....

...Gale Matson died in 2004 after more than 30 years at the company, which is known today as 3M. Its scarlet logo appears on products ranging from neonatal monitoring electrodes to helicopter blade repair paste to Scotch tape.

“He loved working at 3M,” Mr. Matson’s son Tim recalled. “They say you bleed 3M red.”

“I never got to see where he worked, because it was in a secure location,” he added. “Until they patented something and disclosed the inventions, it was all trade secrets and tight security.”

Surprisingly, there’s not too much information on the internet about the life of Dr. Matson, although his obituary notes that he was a 50 year member of the ACS. I wonder if he knew that his legacy in chemistry to the world would be to be known as the inventor of scratch-and-sniff? 

(3M didn't have like "Family Day" or something where people got to tour the workplace?)


  1. There are many Americans chemists, I reckon like Mr. Gale Matson who are still alive today. They do not seek name or fame but driven only by a desire to do a honest job for an honest wage. I notice with sadness, they are short in supply these days. As for ACS, they all are getting plumb over there, and what have have they done lately? I mean their membership dues are rising faster than the rate of inflation!!!

    1. there's a short supply of chemists who want to do honest work? ok boomer


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