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Reading Cadaveric Decomposition Chemistry with a New Pair of Glasses

Authors

  • Pierre-Hugues Stefanuto,

    1. Organic and Biological Analytical Chemistry Group, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Sciences, University of Liege, Allée du 6 août, B6c, Sart-Tilman 4000 (Belgium)
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  • Katelynn Perrault,

    1. Centre for Forensic Science, University of Technology, Sydney, P.O. Box 123, Broadway, New South Wales, 2007 (Australia)
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  • Sonja Stadler,

    1. Faculty of Science, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, 2000 Simcoe Street North, Oshawa, Ontario, L1H 7K4 (Canada)
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  • Romain Pesesse,

    1. Organic and Biological Analytical Chemistry Group, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Sciences, University of Liege, Allée du 6 août, B6c, Sart-Tilman 4000 (Belgium)
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  • Dr. Michał Brokl,

    1. Organic and Biological Analytical Chemistry Group, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Sciences, University of Liege, Allée du 6 août, B6c, Sart-Tilman 4000 (Belgium)
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  • Prof. Shari Forbes,

    1. Centre for Forensic Science, University of Technology, Sydney, P.O. Box 123, Broadway, New South Wales, 2007 (Australia)
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  • Prof. Jean-François Focant

    Corresponding author
    1. Organic and Biological Analytical Chemistry Group, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Sciences, University of Liege, Allée du 6 août, B6c, Sart-Tilman 4000 (Belgium)
    • Organic and Biological Analytical Chemistry Group, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Sciences, University of Liege, Allée du 6 août, B6c, Sart-Tilman 4000 (Belgium)

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Abstract

The chemical processes of human cadaver decomposition are complex and not well understood. The study of decomposition chemistry aims to elucidate the postmortem processes, particularly relating to the production of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) throughout the various decomposition stages. The use of thermal desorption coupled with comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TD-GC×GC-TOFMS) has allowed for the VOC profile of decomposition odor above pig carcasses (human analogues) to be determined. An enhanced data-processing approach combining Fisher ratio calculations with principal component analysis assisted in the identification of the major classes of compounds that contribute to the VOC profile and their variation across decomposition stages. Detection and profiling of these VOCs is valuable for understanding the mechanisms by which human-remains detection (HRD) dogs locate victims in mass disasters and forensic investigations.

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