Skip to Content
Find More Like This
Return to Search

Hand-Held Analyzer Quickly Detects Buried Human Remains

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Contact ORNL About This Technology

Technology Marketing SummaryA lightweight hand-held analyzer invented by ORNL researchers uses visual and
auditory cues to quickly alert investigators to the presence of buried human remains.
The Lightweight Analyzer for Buried Remains And Decomposition Odor Recognition
(LABRADOR) is a significant step forward in the field of forensic chemistry for
clandestine grave detection.

Traditional detection using canines and ground-penetrating radar is often slow and
unreliable. LABRADOR improves the ability to distinguish human decomposition from
other chemical vapors in the atmosphere. Essentially, it works as an electronic sniffing
tool. The human body releases more than 400 chemicals as it decomposes. Organic
compounds, amino acids, inorganic constituents, and noxious gases are released
at specific times and in specific ratios, leaving a chemical signature that uniquely
characterizes the state of decomposition.

DescriptionLABRADOR uses an array of heated metal oxide sensors to detect the major classes
of volatile chemicals present during decomposition. The sensors are modulated
with a unique audio frequency. LABRADOR’s audio frequency tones are combined
electronically into a composite audio signal that is output to both an audio amplifier
and the audio input of a computer sound card. The computer sound card is used to
digitize and store the data, and a Fast Fourier Transform software program deciphers
the composite audio stream into the signal responses for each sensor. Bar graphs on
the front panel of the LABRADOR provide a quick visual response to each sensor.
  • Self-contained, portable, and field usable
  • Detects the specific chemicals identified in the database
  • Provides visual and auditory cues
  • Takes the guesswork out of current field methods that use canines and radar
  • Identifies the unique chemical signature associated with decomposition

Applications and Industries
  • Law enforcement
  • Military
  • Intelligence operations
  • Anthropology and archeology
More InformationPatent
Arpad A. Vass and Marcus B. Wise, Light Weight Analyzer for Odor Recognition, U.S. Patent Application 12/848,118, filed July 31, 2010.

Lead Inventors
Arpad A. Vass1 and Marcus B. Wise2
1Biosciences Division
2Chemical Sciences Division
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Office Phone:
Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Patent 8,726,719
Light-weight analyzer for odor recognition
The invention provides a light weight analyzer, e.g., detector, capable of locating clandestine graves. The detector utilizes the very specific and unique chemicals identified in the database of human decompositional odor. This detector, based on specific chemical compounds found relevant to human decomposition, is the next step forward in clandestine grave detection and will take the guess-work out of current methods using canines and ground-penetrating radar, which have historically been unreliable. The detector is self contained, portable and built for field use. Both visual and auditory cues are provided to the operator.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory 05/20/2014
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated

Contact ORNL About This Technology

To: Nestor Fronco<>