Researchers from The University of Pittsburgh found that the many thousands of smells could be sorted out into 10 basic categories.
Prof Jason Castro, of Bates College, and Prof Chakra Chennubhotla, employed a computerized technique to understand the different types of smell. In their endeavor, they tested 144 of these smells and found that they could be grouped into 10 categories.
Some of the smells they proposed were fruity, chemical, woody, popcorn, lemon, pungent, sweet, chemical, and decayed.
Prof Castro said: "You have these basic categories because they reflect important attributes about the world - danger, food and so on. If you know these basic categories, then you can start to think about building smells. We have not solved the problem of predicting a smell based on its chemical structure, but that's something we hope to do."