Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Chemical Stench of Death

by CFL

As of now, police dogs are specially trained to find dead bodies by the lovely fragrance of decay. However, this may all change, because scientists are working on a new device that can detect the chemicals that create the smell of rotting corpses. They say they are looking for the "chemical fingerprint of death". Not only will the device help find the bodies, but will also be able to figure out how long the body has been there....just based on the smell. Sounds pretty stinky, but very cool!

"In an advance toward the first portable device for detecting human bodies buried in disasters and at crime scenes, scientists today report early results from a project to establish the chemical fingerprint of death....."

"To develop such a device, scientists must identify what gases are released as bodies decompose under a variety of natural environmental conditions, Jones noted. In addition, they must detail the time sequence in which those odorant chemicals are released in the hours and days after death."


Travis Hartshorn said...

I worked on something similar to this involving meth labs. The idea was to determine what kinds of gaseous byproducts were commonly given off by meth labs and figure out how to detect them using IR. This seems pretty similar. Definitely a strong step forward if it can be successfully implemented.

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Anonymous said...

I think this is pretty awesome. I'm sure it would be useful in many situations. It reminds me of an article I read on Dr. Mirov at UAB. From what I can remember he's developing an "optical nose". It will detect certain substances using lasers. It's been a while so I don't know if there have been any further advancements with it.

Anonymous said...

I definitely think that this is a great advance in science; however, I don't think it will totally replace the work that cadaver dogs do in helping to find corpses. It will be difficult to re-create all the scenarios (environmental) that may alter the gases emitted from a decaying body, so I definitely think the dogs will keep their jobs! GVL

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