With French designer spray, the sensation of inebriation

PARIS -- We chat with inventor David Edwards about his collaboration with designer Philippe Starck to bring upon a feeling of drunkenness without elevating one's blood alcohol level.
Written by Bryan Pirolli, Correspondent (Paris)

PARIS – David Edwards has teamed up with Philippe Starck to make you feel drunk quickly and without any risk of a hangover. Edwards, Harvard professor and founder of Le Laboratoire, and the French designer launched a new product called Wahh Quantum Sensations.

The portable canister, designed by Starck contains a liquid developed by Edwards that, when sprayed into the mouth, gives users the sensation of being instantly drunk.  The effect is one of momentary release, offering all of the pleasure of being drunk.  The effects wear off quickly, allowing the user to pass a breathalyzer test not long after.

The aerosol spray doses out the solution in 2 milliliter increments, whereas a standard shot of alcohol contains around 40 milliliters of liquid.  The applications are widespread for people looking for a quick shot of drunkenness without the side effects and hangovers.

The Wahh Quantum Sensations is on display at Le Laboratoire in Paris, a gallery for experimentation and research, founded by Edwards in 2007.  Visitors can come and test two of the first flavors, called Flash Quantum and Demon Quantum.  Edwards has already experimented with several types of breathable comestibles, like the AeroShot energy spray and Le Whif chocolate spray, sold at Le Lab Store in Paris.  He spoke to SmartPlanet about the new product, its origins, and where the technology could lead us.

Why this sort of molecular food products – vitamins, chocolate, now alcohol – what’s your inspiration?

I teach at Harvard but have been in Paris for seven years and opened Le Laboratoire in 2007.  We do experiments and design experiments here.  In the first year, 2007-08, we worked with chef Thierry Marx.  In that context, having a background in applied biology, I proposed that we might breathe food into our mouths which was a cultural experience, not envisioned at the time as a major culinary development.  We presented the Whiff in winter 2008.   We’ve been developing aerosol cuisine which has started in a cultural way.

How did you meet up with Phillipe Starck for the Wahh Quantum Sensations?

Phillipe Starck came by Le Laboratoire and left his card and asked me to call him. I waited several months, and then in winter of 2011, I sent him an SMS and asked to speak to him and told him that this is our 5th year anniversary, saying we’d love to work with him.  He loved the Whiff and the concept and so we got together in the spring 2011 and Starck said he was interested.  Everything we had done was about delivering food and drink.  He was interested in giving a certain experience to someone by way of little cartridges inserted into a design that Starck developed.  Wahh was born.

How did you decide that “drunkenness” was the sensation to achieve?

The different sensations we were interested in exploring are gustatory and olfactory and the notion of light headedness.  All of those things correlate in a direct way with surface area. When you put food or drink in your mouth, it hits your olfactory nerves.  What’s interesting about a spray is that you can amplify the surface even if the mass is very small, 1000 fold the surface.  This means you could take a shot of vodka and take one thousandth of that shot.  If you took 40 to 60 microliters and put it in your mouth, that’s nothing.  But as an aerosol, the surface area would be like the vapor of the shot.  You feel this lightheadedness, not drunkenness, and there’s nothing in your blood.  It tastes kind of like vodka and has no side effects.  The other sensation we look to explore is the olfactive, the notion of spice.

Are there any potential dangers with this product?

It’s the really early days, but there has been some miscommunication here.  We’re right next to the Ministry of Culture in Paris and we’ve had medical doctors approach us and talk about the potential use but there has been no published critique.  The whole thing is less than 20ml in your body.

What are the marketing potentials for the Wahh Quantum Sensations?

It is starting to sell at the Lab Store, and later this summer we will sell it in a few leading design stores.  There’s been a really big interest around the world in it.  The notion is that the alcohol based quantum sensations will be targeting more restaurants, hotels, and high end design stores.  The non-alcohol aerosols will have a potential mass market.

What about other applications of this technology?

It’s really interesting but there are clearly other cosmetic applications here because of the nature of the spray.  Because it is commercialized, we can explore the mixing of vitamins and hormones in alcohols so there are opportunities to explore dermal and more medical health applications.

How do you see the aerosols as they fit into the trends of French cuisine, including molecular cuisine?

Another big area that we are developing is edible packaging.  All of this work is not involving chemical modifications or the use of non-natural materials.  Molecular cuisine is the modification of materials.  We are exploring new forms of modalities and nutrition.  Through the packaging we usually throw away or the air we breathe, we are looking at how that can be part of nutrition.  There’s been this convergence between the health care industry and the food industry.  A lot of tech in the health industry has moved towards the food industry over the last thirty to forty years.  It’s happening now more aggressively.  They are all delivering substances to the human body.  What we’re doing in a way has a lot of biomedical kinds of origins in that sense, it connections to what has been happening in molecular cuisine.

The Quantum Sensations are on display and for purchase at Le Laboratoire in Paris through July, with mass distribution hopefully making it available in the US, Europe, and Asia by the end of the summer, Edwards said.

Photo: Nicolas Buisson

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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