Nissan Forest Air-Con System Changes Driver Brain Activity


Those folks at Nissan have been keeping us busy lately, but the latest development really is a first – an air-conditioning system specifically designed to mess with our brains!

Earlier this week the Japanese number three announced the development of a new “Forest AC” air conditioning system, “which systematically controls cabin temperature, ventilation, aroma and humidity to create an optimal interior environment.”

But there’s more, the system is based on the results of a research study on the effects of aroma on human mental activity meaning it can “influence the physiological state and senses of the driver and passengers.”

The system achieves this by offering additional control of air flow, humidity, aroma and other ambient factors making the first automotive system in the world created to make driving more comfortable based on studies of drivers’ mental activity.

According to the Nissan press release, the system, designed to recreate the refreshing climate, fragrance and natural breezes of relaxing forest settings, is scheduled for use on the new Fuga which will be released later in Nissan’s current fiscal year.

Other major features of the Forest AC are as follows:

  • Breezy Air – Another unique feature of the Forest AC is its creation of gentle, fluctuating “natural breezes” by randomly changing the volume of air flowing through the upper and front vent outlets for greater occupant comfort. The system senses sunlight and outside temperatures and controls the ventilation patterns accordingly, supplying just the right amounts of air so, for example, occupants on both the sunny and shady sides of the vehicle feel comfortable. In developing the system, the first such design for a passenger vehicle, Nissan employed an original body-temperature model that determines skin temperature by simulating heat conduction and the human body temperature mechanism.
  • Aroma – Taking a hint from the pleasant effect of forest air on people, Nissan studied the effects of aromas on human mental activity. The resulting Forest AC system intermittently and alternately furnishes two unique aromas, borneol and leaf alcohol, to alleviate boredom and stimulate the driver’s brain. Borneol combines a compound made from fragrant Kapur wood, lavender and other essential oils to promote calm and focus, while leaf alcohol is found in most plants and is thought to have a calming effect and reduce fatigue. The system utilizes a special interchangeable aroma cartridge (with a one-year life) to produce the forest effect. Development of the Forest AC was based on results of a joint Nissan research study with Professor Kikunori Shinohara of the Tokyo University of Science, Suwa, Japan. “The relaxed state,” said Professor Shinohara, “is one in which the person calms down from external conditions or the consequences of what he or she has done and achieves mental acuity, resulting in good work.” Test subjects simultaneously exposed to these aromas and controlled ventilation simulating a natural breeze exhibited changes in cerebral blood flow. This, Shinohara says, can create the relaxed state of a person sitting for calligraphy or a tea ceremony – alert and focused, yet with tension relieved.

  • Humidity Control – The Forest AC’s newly developed humidity sensor accurately detects condensation on windows and eliminates it, while also preventing cabin air from drying out through optimal control of the system’s onboard dehumidifier. To increase sensor precision, Nissan’s original control system factors in both exterior temperature and vehicle speed. This is the first time Nissan has employed a dehumidification function in an air conditioning system for humidity control. The system maintains comfortable humidity levels (roughly 35 – 55%), preventing the “over-drying” feeling of conventional A/C systems (with typical humidity levels of around 20%).
  • Automatic Inside/Outside Air Control with Odor/Exhaust Sensors – Nissan’s new Forest AC provides active control of the ventilation system, increasing ventilation flow accordingly to optimize the oxygen levels of the vehicle’s cabin. The system utilizes an automatic intake control system, coupled to multiple wide-range, highly sensitive micro-sensors, to prevent the inflow of unpleasant air into the cabin. In addition to a conventional exhaust sensor, the system includes the world’s first sensor system for detecting various other odors, such as from animals, from outside the vehicle – opening or closing the intake vents as needed without constant driver input. The system also utilizes an inside sensor, located at knee level, to detect cigarette odors and other unpleasant interior smells and increase airflow if necessary.
  • Plasmacluster Ions with Sterilizer – The Forest AC’s new-generation plasmacluster ion*3 system generates and supplies plasmacluster ions (through the ventilation system) at higher densities than in previous systems. These ions maintain cabin air quality, kill germs through strengthened bacteria deactivation and minimize odors clinging to the cabin air and interior surfaces (odor substances are destroyed by OH radicals produced from the ions). The Nissan system achieves ion densities 10 times higher than previous automotive system, including those in the recently introduced Skyline Crossover, providing odor-elimination and sterilization effect.
  • High-Performance Filter for Removing Pollen, Odors and Allergens – The Forest AC utilizes a special high-performance filter, made from material impregnated with natural grapeseed polyphenol*4, which is designed to more effectively remove pollen and deactivate allergens drifting in the cabin than conventional filters. Similar filters are already in use in high-end, intelligent room air conditioners.

Image Credits – Nissan

Andrew Williams

is a writer and freelance journalist specialising in sustainability and green issues. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.