Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 376, Issue 8, pp 1212–1224 | Cite as

Laboratory and field experiments used to identify Canis lupus var. familiaris active odor signature chemicals from drugs, explosives, and humans

  • Norma Lorenzo
  • TianLang Wan
  • Ross J. Harper
  • Ya-Li Hsu
  • Michael Chow
  • Stefan Rose
  • Kenneth G. FurtonEmail author
Special Issue Paper


This paper describes the use of headspace solid-phase microextraction (SPME) combined with gas chromatography to identify the signature odors that law enforcement-certified detector dogs alert to when searching for drugs, explosives, and humans. Background information is provided on the many types of detector dog available and specific samples highlighted in this paper are the drugs cocaine and 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA or Ecstasy), the explosives TNT and C4, and human remains. Studies include the analysis and identification of the headspace "fingerprint" of a variety of samples, followed by completion of double-blind dog trials of the individual components in an attempt to isolate and understand the target compounds that dogs alert to. SPME–GC/MS has been demonstrated to have a unique capability for the extraction of volatiles from the headspace of forensic specimens including drugs and explosives and shows great potential to aid in the investigation and understanding of the complicated process of canine odor detection. Major variables evaluated for the headspace SPME included fiber chemistry and a variety of sampling times ranging from several hours to several seconds and the resultant effect on ratios of isolated volatile components. For the drug odor studies, the CW/DVB and PDMS SPME fibers proved to be the optimal fiber types. For explosives, the results demonstrated that the best fibers in field and laboratory applications were PDMS and CW/DVB, respectively. Gas chromatography with electron capture detector (GC/ECD) and mass spectrometry (GC/MS) was better for analysis of nitromethane and TNT odors, and C-4 odors, respectively. Field studies with detector dogs have demonstrated possible candidates for new pseudo scents as well as the potential use of controlled permeation devices as non-hazardous training aids providing consistent permeation of target odors.


Explosives Drugs Human remains Canine detection SPME 



The authors would like to thank the numerous graduate and undergraduate students who assisted in the laboratory and field experiments, members of the various drug dog detection teams who participated in this study and the trainers who coordinated the field testing including Sgt Wesley Dallas and Officer Allen Lowy of the Miami-Dade Police department, Trooper Mike Van Leer of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), and Bob Anderson of the Palm Beach County Sheriffs Office. Partial financial support from Supelco, Inc., and the National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC) is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Norma Lorenzo
    • 1
  • TianLang Wan
    • 1
  • Ross J. Harper
    • 1
  • Ya-Li Hsu
    • 1
  • Michael Chow
    • 1
  • Stefan Rose
    • 1
  • Kenneth G. Furton
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Chemistry and International Forensic Research Institute (IFRI)Florida International UniversityMiamiUSA

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