Please click on the tabs below to find out more about our current Physical Evidence Research Projects:
Fire Debris/Ignitable Liquids Analysis
Application of Chemometrics and GC-MS Analysis for the Identification of Traces of Ignitable Liquids in Fire Debris Samples: This research makes use of the chemometric method of target factor analysis to aid the fire debris analyst in detecting and statistically assessing the potential presence of ignitable liquids even at levels below those acceptable for a positive determination under current practices. The method can detect an ignitable liquid even in the presence of high levels of interfering background components resulting from the fire. Current practices in fire debris analysis are based on the ASTM E 1618 protocol, which relies on visual pattern recognition for the detection of the presence of an ignitable liquid. Pattern recognition becomes more challenging when the contribution of background components is strong and the ignitable liquid residue contribution is weak. This research is conducted in collaboration with Bureau of Fire Standards and Training in Ocala, FL, and the Bureau of Forensic Fire and Explosives Analysis, Tallahassee, FL. (National Institute of Justice - Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice award 2008-DN-BX-K069)
Videos: Ocala Burns-
Implementation of a Searchable Ignitable Liquids Database Tool for the Fire Debris Analysis Community: This research has produced prototype software for the analysis of fire debris. The software was developed based on previous research at NCFS on the total ion spectrum obtained from GC-MS data sets. The software compares the total ion spectrum of a fire debris sample to a library of total ion spectra of reference ignitable liquids and substrate materials. The results rank the reference ignitable liquid spectra from the most similar to the fire debris sample to the least similar. NCFS is working with forensic laboratories to test the software on casework samples. (National Institute of Justice - Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice award 2008-IJ-CX-K401)
Smokeless Powders Database: The Smokeless Powders Database is being developed by the National Center for Forensic Science in collaboration with the Technical Working Group for Fire and Explosives (TWGFEX). The Smokeless Powders Database consists of product information, physical description and measurements, and identification of the chemical components of smokeless powders. The database will be accessible to forensic scientists free-of-charge. The information and data contained in the database will be a compilation from NCFS and other forensic laboratories. (National Institute of Justice - Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice award 2008-IJ-CX-K401) Smokeless Powder Database
LIBS Analysis of Energetic Materials: NCFS, in collaboration with the Townes Laser Institute and Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers (CREOL) is investigating the use of Laser Induces Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) for the analysis of organic residues, including explosives. Emphasis is on the chemometric approaches, standoff detection and plasma fundamentals. (Multidisciplinary university research initiative – MURI, U.S. Army Research Office award W911NF0610446)
Transferable Fiber Census: NCFS is partnering with The West Virginia Forensic Science Initiative (WVU-FSI) to conduct a census of the transferable fiber population across the United States. The census categorized the transferable fiber population based on fiber type and color. Results from the census were analyzed for possible regional and seasonal variations and the data will assist forensic fiber analysts in the interpretation of the statistical significance of fiber trace evidence. (National Institute of Justice - Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice award 2005-MU-MU-K004)
One method is a statistical comparison of the visible absorption spectra of the fiber dyes. Another method is a molecular-level analysis of the fiber dye composition performed by direct infusion electrospray ionization – mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) coupled via an electro spray interface. (State of Florida Type II Research Center funds)
Analysis of Glass and Paint
Other Physical Evidence Projects
Analysis of Writing Inks: A study has been conducted of the use of electrospray – mass spectrometry to discriminate between inks from a series of commercial pens. Inks from three classes of pens (gel, roller ball, and ball point) were analyzed. A high degree of discrimination was obtained within each of the three classes based on the composite results from a set of three mass spectrometry methods. (State of Florida Type II Research Center funds)
Controlled Substances: Dr. Blair’s research group focuses on the development of new presumptive tests for the officer in the field and the laboratory technician of emerging substances of abuse. For example, Benzylpiperazine (BZP, A2, Frenzy, Nemesis) has no distinct presumptive test. Analysis is limited to GC/MS analysis. Although this analysis accurately identifies BZP in a sample it is not a useful tool for the field officer and slows down sample processing in the laboratory. We have an ongoing collaboration with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in California to develop a distinct test for BZP.
We are investigating d10 metal halide cluster compounds as fluorescent indicators. The compounds are known to produce fluorescent complexes with amines. Current work has focused on developing fluorescent tests based on CuI. We have been able to produce test strips that positively identify BZP, Cocaine HCl, PCP, TFMPP, and nicotine. Each of these substances gives a unique color. These tests are sensitive and can give a visually detectable response with as little as 5 ug of analyte. We are now using chemical modification to increase the range of substances that give a response. Ultimately we will couple new light sources, fluorescent indicators, and digitizing systems to produce small handheld systems that will allow assessment of multiple indicators in the field.
1) Swiatko, J.D.F., PR, Zedeck, MS, Further studies on spot tests and microcrystal tests for identification of cocaine Journal of Forensic Sciences, 2003. 48(3): p. 1-5.
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