Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

José R. Almirall

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Yong Cai

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Jin He

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Jaroslava Miksovska

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Francisco Fernandez-Lima

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Tandem, LIBS, LA-ICP-MS, Printing Inks, Data Fusion

Date of Defense



As a consequence of the widespread use of computers coupled to high-quality printers and different types of papers, forgery, counterfeiting, change of wills, anonymous letter writing and felonious use of the documents have become serious problems. Forensic analysts are always seeking methods that can provide reliable information on whether a specimen collected at the crime scene is linked to the crime or to a source of known origin. Sensitive methods that can provide more detailed characterization of natural or man-made materials or even provide information not previously available to forensic examiners.

Recent advances in rapid solid sampling of materials using laser ablation (LA) coupled to inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy (ICP-MS) have led to this analytical method to be regarded as the “gold standard” in the field of elemental analysis for trace level components in solids. Another, emerging, analytical technique that uses the same laser pulse to generate a plasma that can be interrogated with spectroscopy is laser induced break down spectroscopy (LIBS).

The analysis of ink and paper is also possible because of the surface removal effect of laser interactions with the samples. In the present study, printing inks were analyzed using LIBS, LA-ICP-MS and both of them in tandem mode. In the tandem setup, the light generated during the relaxation of the excited species (LIBS) was used to create a spectral signature of the elements, and the mass-to-charge ratio of the ejected particles (ICP-MS) was used to create a mass spectrum.

For a set of 319 printing ink samples, LA-ICP-MS alone provided discrimination greater than 99%. A subset of 43 printing inks, having a very similar elemental profile, was analyzed by tandem LIBS/LA-ICP-MS. The fusion of LIBS and LA-ICP-MS provided additional discrimination through the detection of elements like Ca, Si, Fe, and K by LIBS, that are difficult to detect and confirm using standalone ICP-MS because of the spectral interferences (isobaric and polyatomic) involved. The combination of these two sensors was found to minimize the individual limitations and provide a more complete and representative chemical characterization of printing inks.



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