Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Ron Walli (wallira@ornl.gov)
Communications and External Relations


Knoxville firm licenses ORNL human remains discovery technology

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Feb. 21, 2012 — In the hope of bringing criminals more swiftly to justice and giving greater closure to grieving families, the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has licensed a new remote sensing technology to Agile Technologies of Knoxville.

Agile Technologies developed a special suite of sensors based on research at ORNL. The company's new device is called LABRADOR, which stands for Lightweight Analyzer for Buried Remains and Decomposition Odor Recognition. The handheld device, similar in appearance to a metal detector, will feature an array of metal oxide sensors optimized for the detection of volatile chemicals known to be present during various stages of human decomposition.

"Each death is a heartbreak; every loss is a terrible grief," said Keith Vaigneur, president of Agile Technologies. "But we hope our device will give loved ones greater closure and assist law enforcement officers in catching violent criminals. We also believe it may be useful for military, homeland security, disaster response and anthropological research."

The device is expected to have a lower initial cost and lower training, deployment and maintenance costs, as compared with other methods. It will be easier to transport and deploy than search dogs. And while dogs have a reliability of between 50 and 60 percent, the new device is expected to have a reliability of between 75 and 100 percent.

Agile Technologies, founded in 1998, is a product design and development company with its stated goal being to take clients' dreams and discoveries and transform them into marketable devices. Plans call for the device, which should be in production within about a year, to be marketed internationally.

"We intend to seek out several strategic partnerships in this area, and engage ORNL in a work for others agreement to further develop this technology," Vaigneur said. "It could also be applied to other areas such as the detection of illegal narcotics production."

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE's Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit http://science.energy.gov/.