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Elon student’s research may help on crime scenes

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ELON, N.C.--Elon University undergraduate research could help investigators reduce the time it takes for investigators to identify explosive devices.

Students under the leadership of Dr. Karl Sienerth recently presented the novel method of explosive identification at the University's Student Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF). Their method takes a little more than two hours, instead of two weeks.

"Crime scene Investigators would collect samples and they would send them off to a laboratory to do that analysis. There's a significant time delay in that, so what we would like to do here is develop a method that could be taken to the crime scene," Dr. Sienerth said.

Students test the explosive TNT with a solution and calculate the amount of glow or light emission for data.

"We can measure the intensity of those two emissions, and from that we can determine how much TNT is in the solution," Dr. Sienerth said.

The research method would be mobile, allowing investigators to take samples on scene.

Though the project is still in the early stages, Dr. Sienerth hopes to develop a prototype in the next five to ten years funded by Homeland Security or the Department of Defense to eventually allow local authorities to use the system .

Student Cecilia Smith said she wished the prototype was finished, and could have helped in the investigation of the Boston bombings.

"If this was already In practice we would have already been able to catch suspects faster than we did, and get further on in the investigation process because right now they're probably waiting on that data," Smith said.