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Dead Giveaway: Odors Released From Corpses Leave Chemical Fingerprint

Date:
January 21, 2007
Source:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Summary:
A tiny microbe may hold the key to simpler, lower-cost production of ethanol from biomass sources such as trees, grasses and cornstalks. Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers are studying a bacterium known as Clostridium thermocellum, which has the ability to both degrade cellulose -- cellulose makes up the cell walls of plants -- into sugars and then ferment these sugars into alcohol, or ethanol.

Decompositional odors released from corpses in clandestine graves are providing a chemical fingerprint that could help law enforcement officials find these burial sites and provide evidence that ultimately points to the victim's killer.

A team led by Arpad Vass, a forensics expert in Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Biosciences Division, started by identifying 478 specific volatile compounds associated with burial decomposition and narrowed these down to the top 30 in order of perceived importance for finding buried bodies.

The project, begun four years ago, identifies the "odor signature" unique to human burial decomposition and could lead to improved cadaver dog training and possibly to a portable instrument that could help locate human remains.

The research, performed with assistance from the University of Tennessee's Department of Anthropology and the Anthropological Research Facility, is funded by the FBI's Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "Dead Giveaway: Odors Released From Corpses Leave Chemical Fingerprint." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 January 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070118163355.htm>.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (2007, January 21). Dead Giveaway: Odors Released From Corpses Leave Chemical Fingerprint. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070118163355.htm
Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "Dead Giveaway: Odors Released From Corpses Leave Chemical Fingerprint." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070118163355.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

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