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December 9, 2011

Wasabi Fire Alarm wins 2011 Ig Nobel Prize in Chemistry


From a September 29, 2011 article in The Guardian: "How do you wake a deaf person in the middle of the night if there's a fire? Squirt a cloud of wasabi at them, of course. For the Japanese researchers who came up with the horseradish-based alarm system, it was a lifesaving piece of work, but on Thursday night they entered the history books with the award of the Ig Nobel prize for chemistry."

"The Japanese scientists and engineers who came up with the 50,000-yen (£400) wasabi alarm tried hundreds of odours, including rotten eggs, before settling on the Japanese condiment — a favourite of sushi lovers. Its active ingredient, ally isothicyanate, acts as an irritant in the nose that works even when someone is asleep.  'That's why [people] can wake up after inhalation of air-diluted wasabi,' said Makoto Imai of the department of psychiatry at Shiga University of Medical Science, one of the team that won this year's Ig Nobel for chemistry."

Screen Shot 2011-12-08 at 8.57.05 PM

The official Ig Nobel chemistry citation: 

Makoto Imai, Naoki Urushihata, Hideki Tanemura, Yukinobu Tajima, Hideaki Goto, Koichiro Mizoguchi and Junichi Murakami for determining the ideal density of airborne wasabi (pungent horseradish) to awaken sleeping people in case of a fire or other emergency, and for applying this knowledge to invent the wasabi alarm.

December 9, 2011 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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Hmmm. I am a very deep sleeper but I wake up right away if a skunk passes under my open window in the summer night (which happens at least a couple of times each year). Same idea!

Posted by: Charlotte K | Dec 9, 2011 4:32:20 PM

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