WEDNESDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) -- A new technology that's
said to detect decomposing bodies in the ground could help police
find murder victims in concealed graves, even under concrete, its
The device can detect trace amounts of ninhydrin-reactive
nitrogen (NRN) that collects in air pockets above and close to
grave soil, scientists at the U.S. National Institute of Standards
and Technology (NIST) explained in a news release. Air samples are
collected using a small probe inserted into the ground.
This is the only device that can detect NRN in the vapor phase,
the researchers say. Until now, detection of NRN required the
tedious and expensive process of solvent extraction of soil
samples, they noted in the NIST news release.
The device can be used to detect a body under a concrete slab by
drilling a small hole in the concrete and inserting the probe. This
eliminates the need for digging, according to the authors of the
report, Tara Lovestead and Thomas J. Bruno.
Currently, only the sampling device is portable. Testing of
samples must still be done in the lab. But the researchers are
working to develop a fully portable version of the instrument.
"This work [provides] another tool for forensic investigators to aid in locating elusive clandestine graves," Lovestead and Bruno wrote in the report, which was recently released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the journal Forensic Science International.
The U.S. Department of Justice has more about