Enhanced characterization of the smell of death by comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography-time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GCxGC-TOFMS).
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AbstractSoon after death, the decay process of mammalian soft tissues begins and leads to the release of cadaveric volatile compounds in the surrounding environment. The study of postmortem decomposition products is an emerging field of study in forensic science. However, a better knowledge of the smell of death and its volatile constituents may have many applications in forensic sciences. Domestic pigs are the most widely used human body analogues in forensic experiments, mainly due to ethical restrictions. Indeed, decomposition trials on human corpses are restricted in many countries worldwide. This article reports on the use of comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography coupled with time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GCxGC-TOFMS) for thanatochemistry applications. A total of 832 VOCs released by a decaying pig carcass in terrestrial ecosystem, i.e. a forest biotope, were identified by GCxGC-TOFMS. These postmortem compounds belong to many kinds of chemical class, mainly oxygen compounds (alcohols, acids, ketones, aldehydes, esters), sulfur and nitrogen compounds, aromatic compounds such as phenolic molecules and hydrocarbons. The use of GCxGC-TOFMS in study of postmortem volatile compounds instead of conventional GC-MS was successful.