Strange: On the smell of Composition C-4

Strange and colleagues offer discouraging news in the hunt for a substitute for a mysterious substance:

nick-strangeOn the Smell of Composition C-4,” William Kranz, Kelley Kitts, Nicholas Strange [pictured here —Nick Strange  is now a graduate student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville], Joshua Cummins, Erica Lotspeich, John Goodpaster, Forensic Science International, epub December 24, 2013. The authors, all affiliated with Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), report:

“the question of which chemical compounds are responsible for causing a dog to recognize a particular odor and alert to it remains a subject of debate for several explosive formulations—including, perhaps most notably, Composition C-4. Previous studies have indicated that cyclohexanone, 2,3-dimethy-2,3-dinitrobutane, and 2-ethyl-1-hexanol are the chemicals that may cause canines to alert to C-4…. Through the use of contingency tables and statistical testing, we demonstrate the failure of trained law enforcement dogs in our study to respond in any significant way to these potential odor compounds.”

(Thanks to investigator Tom Gill for bringing this to our attention.)