Document Type




First Advisor's Name

Jose Almirall

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Alexander Mebel

Third Advisor's Name

Andrew Macfarlane

Fourth Advisor's Name

Bruce McCord

Fifth Advisor's Name

Yong Cai


laser ablation, ICP-MS, LIBS, glass, ink, forensics

Date of Defense



The necessity of elemental analysis techniques to solve forensic problems continues to expand as the samples collected from crime scenes grow in complexity. Laser ablation ICP-MS (LA-ICP-MS) has been shown to provide a high degree of discrimination between samples that originate from different sources. In the first part of this research, two laser ablation ICP-MS systems were compared, one using a nanosecond laser and another a femtosecond laser source for the forensic analysis of glass. The results showed that femtosecond LA-ICP-MS did not provide significant improvements in terms of accuracy, precision and discrimination, however femtosecond LA-ICP-MS did provide lower detection limits. In addition, it was determined that even for femtosecond LA-ICP-MS an internal standard should be utilized to obtain accurate analytical results for glass analyses. In the second part, a method using laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) for the forensic analysis of glass was shown to provide excellent discrimination for a glass set consisting of 41 automotive fragments. The discrimination power was compared to two of the leading elemental analysis techniques, µXRF and LA-ICP-MS, and the results were similar; all methods generated >99% discrimination and the pairs found indistinguishable were similar. An extensive data analysis approach for LIBS glass analyses was developed to minimize Type I and II errors en route to a recommendation of 10 ratios to be used for glass comparisons. Finally, a LA-ICP-MS method for the qualitative analysis and discrimination of gel ink sources was developed and tested for a set of ink samples. In the first discrimination study, qualitative analysis was used to obtain 95.6% discrimination for a blind study consisting of 45 black gel ink samples provided by the United States Secret Service. A 0.4% false exclusion (Type I) error rate and a 3.9% false inclusion (Type II) error rate was obtained for this discrimination study. In the second discrimination study, 99% discrimination power was achieved for a black gel ink pen set consisting of 24 self collected samples. The two pairs found to be indistinguishable came from the same source of origin (the same manufacturer and type of pen purchased in different locations). It was also found that gel ink from the same pen, regardless of the age, was indistinguishable as were gel ink pens (four pens) originating from the same pack.





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