Evaluation of the evidential value of the elemental composition of glass, ink and paper by laser-based microspectrochemical methods

Tatiana Trejos, Florida International University


Elemental analysis can become an important piece of evidence to assist the solution of a case. The work presented in this dissertation aims to evaluate the evidential value of the elemental composition of three particular matrices: ink, paper and glass. In the first part of this study, the analytical performance of LIBS and LA-ICP-MS methods was evaluated for paper, writing inks and printing inks. A total of 350 ink specimens were examined including black and blue gel inks, ballpoint inks, inkjets and toners originating from several manufacturing sources and/or batches. The paper collection set consisted of over 200 paper specimens originating from 20 different paper sources produced by 10 different plants. Micro-homogeneity studies show smaller variation of elemental compositions within a single source (i.e., sheet, pen or cartridge) than the observed variation between different sources (i.e., brands, types, batches). Significant and detectable differences in the elemental profile of the inks and paper were observed between samples originating from different sources (discrimination of 87–100% of samples, depending on the sample set under investigation and the method applied). These results support the use of elemental analysis, using LA-ICP-MS and LIBS, for the examination of documents and provide additional discrimination to the currently used techniques in document examination. In the second part of this study, a direct comparison between four analytical methods (µ-XRF, solution-ICP-MS, LA-ICP-MS and LIBS) was conducted for glass analyses using interlaboratory studies. The data provided by 21 participants were used to assess the performance of the analytical methods in associating glass samples from the same source and differentiating different sources, as well as the use of different match criteria (confidence interval (±6s, ±5s, ±4s, ±3s, ±2s), modified confidence interval, t-test (sequential univariate, p=0.05 and p=0.01), t-test with Bonferroni correction (for multivariate comparisons), range overlap, and Hotelling's T2 tests. Error rates (Type 1 and Type 2) are reported for the use of each of these match criteria and depend on the heterogeneity of the glass sources, the repeatability between analytical measurements, and the number of elements that were measured. The study provided recommendations for analytical performance-based parameters for µ-XRF and LA-ICP-MS as well as the best performing match criteria for both analytical techniques, which can be applied now by forensic glass examiners.

Subject Area

Chemistry|Analytical chemistry

Recommended Citation

Trejos, Tatiana, "Evaluation of the evidential value of the elemental composition of glass, ink and paper by laser-based microspectrochemical methods" (2012). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3554219.