Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Body of evidence: New fast, reliable method to detect gravesoil

Date:
August 2, 2010
Source:
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Summary:
Finding bodies buried by someone who wanted them to stay undiscovered can be difficult. However a new technique can reliably detect biochemical changes in a decomposing cadaver.

Nothing against bloodhounds, but finding bodies buried by someone who wanted them to stay undiscovered can be difficult. However a new technique developed by scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), can reliably detect biochemical changes in a decomposing cadaver.

Typically, cadaver-sniffing dogs or ground penetrating radar are used to detect clandestine gravesites. But these methods are not always useful in all scenarios, such as if a body is buried under concrete. The NIST instrument is a modification of a technique developed at the lab to sense minute levels of difficult-to-detect chemical compounds. The process uses an alumina-coated, porous layer, open tubular (PLOT) column with a motorized pipette that pulls in air samples at ambient temperatures. The device detects trace amounts of ninhydrin-reactive nitrogen (NRN) that collects in air pockets above and close to gravesoil. Previously, this process involved the tedious and expensive process of solvent extraction of soil samples. Now, a simple probe slightly thicker than a human hair can be inserted into the ground to detect decaying flesh.

Developed by NIST chemists Thomas J. Bruno and Tara M. Lovestead and spelled out in a paper published in Forensic Science International, this is the only known example of detecting NRN in the vapor phase and gives detectives another tool for finding hidden graves. Moreover, Bruno said that the device can be used to detect a body buried under a concrete slab, merely by drilling a one-eighth-inch hole and inserting the probe, thereby eliminating the need for unnecessary digging.

Bruno and Lovestead used frozen, dead feeder rats for their study and took samples of rats buried under 8 centimeters of soil, laid on top of the soil and from boxes with no dead rats in them. They took samples at one week intervals for six weeks and then again at 10 and 20 weeks and found that after five weeks, the amount of NRN was at its highest, but it was still detectable after 20 weeks.

The device operates at room temperatures, as opposed to ultra-cold temperatures, which is a big plus for future portability as well as the fact that it employs chemicals already in use by law enforcement officials (ninhydrin reagent) for exposing latent fingerprints. Bruno is working on making a portable version of the instrument -- at present only the sampling device is portable; testing of samples must still be done in the lab -- giving this new device and detection process great promise for use by law enforcement officials in the field.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Tara M. Lovestead, Thomas J. Bruno. Detecting gravesoil with headspace analysis with adsorption on short porous layer open tubular (PLOT) columns. Forensic Science International, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2010.05.024

Cite This Page:

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "Body of evidence: New fast, reliable method to detect gravesoil." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100730191706.htm>.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). (2010, August 2). Body of evidence: New fast, reliable method to detect gravesoil. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100730191706.htm
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "Body of evidence: New fast, reliable method to detect gravesoil." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100730191706.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

AP (July 31, 2014) Seacrest Wolf Preserve on the northern Florida panhandle allows more than 10,000 visitors each year to get up close and personal with Arctic and British Columbian Wolves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers

AP (July 31, 2014) With Florida's panther population rebounding, some ranchers complain the protected predators are once again killing their calves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins