SEP 11, 2019 9:50 AM PDT

PLOT-cryo: A High Tech Sniffing Device

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

It’s no secret that stink is science cooking and so chemist Megan Harries, a postdoctoral fellow and chemist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), attempts to explore just that by measuring the chemicals that give a decomposing corpse its distinctive smell--these chemicals are drops of putrescine and cadaverine placed in glass vials.

What is the stench of death?

 

When Harries returned a day later after storing the vials in a shipping container, she unraveled the vials where the vapors have now diffused and began drilling a hole in the side of the container.

From NIST.GOV: The PLOT-cryo device can be used to detect very low concentrations of airborne chemicals such as those that might signal the presence of spoiled food, clandestine graves, and chemicals in fire debris that might show evidence of arson. Image Credit: Courtesy of Megan Harries

Harries was now the first to conduct a field test using high-tech sniffing device known as PLOT-cryo to help her detect the stench of death. Using PLOT-cryo, the results were positive for putrescine and cadaverine which were originally bought form a chemical supplier, in what Harries refers to these chemicals as the “decomposition suite of compounds”.

From NIST.GOV: NIST chemist Megan Harries tests whether a portable, high-tech sniffing device called a PLOT-cryo system can be used to screen shipping containers for dangerous airborne chemicals at ports of entry. For this test, which was performed at the NIST campus in Boulder, Colorado, Harries used an old U.S. Army communications bunker as a stand-in for a shipping container. Image Credit: Courtesy of Megan Harries

PLOT-cryo was developed by NIST detected tiny concentrations of chemicals in the air and is explained in the study published in Forensic Chemistry.

Harries was then curious to see if PLOT-cryo, short for “porous layer open tubular cryogenic adsorption”, would safely screen shipping containers for dangerous and illegal cargo. “We chose those chemical mixtures as surrogates for things that law enforcement might care about,” she explained.

The device can also advance public heath and human safety. “It was good at detecting some very hard-to-detect stuff,” Harries said. “We’re close to solving an important problem.”

Source: NIST

About the Author
  • Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
You May Also Like
JUL 22, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Telescope Riding a Balloon Could Replace Hubble
JUL 22, 2021
Telescope Riding a Balloon Could Replace Hubble
The Earth's atmosphere often muffles views from ground-based telescopes when observing space. Now, a research c ...
JUL 30, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Using Iron Waste to Clean Pesticides
JUL 30, 2021
Using Iron Waste to Clean Pesticides
Groundwater is something most people use every day. Whether for drinking, washing, or growing the food you eat, it is pa ...
AUG 05, 2021
Technology
Top Ways to Make the Most out of Your Ethernet
AUG 05, 2021
Top Ways to Make the Most out of Your Ethernet
Today, the Ethernet connection has emerged as one of the most popular ways to make the most out of an internet connectio ...
AUG 12, 2021
Plants & Animals
World Elephant Day - Elephant Conservation in Action
AUG 12, 2021
World Elephant Day - Elephant Conservation in Action
Elephants are the largest currently living land animals, and they are majestic. They must consume nearly 70,000 calories ...
SEP 24, 2021
Neuroscience
How Smell Triggers Memory in the Brain
SEP 24, 2021
How Smell Triggers Memory in the Brain
Neuroscientists have discovered a new type of neuron that is key for forming associative memories. The corresponding stu ...
SEP 26, 2021
Cardiology
New Type of Artificial Heart Tested in Several Patients Shows Promise
SEP 26, 2021
New Type of Artificial Heart Tested in Several Patients Shows Promise
In July, a new type of artificial heart was been implanted for the first time in a US patient at Duke University Medical ...
Loading Comments...