Elemental analysis of cotton fiber evidence for use in the field of forensic science

Document Type



Master of Science (MS)


Forensic Science

First Advisor's Name

Jose Almirall

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Yong Cai

Third Advisor's Name

Kenneth Furton

Date of Defense



The purpose of this research is to introduce a method for the forensic elemental analysis of cotton fibers for the purpose of increasing the discrimination between otherwise similar cotton evidence using microwave digestion Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) and Laser Ablation- Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). A quadrupole ICP-MS and UV laser ablation (266nm) instruments were used for the analysis. A cotton standard reference material (IAEA V-9) was used to validate the developed methods producing good accuracy with typically 10 % bias and good precision (typically 5% RSD) for the element list: 25Mg, 27Al, 55Mn, 57Fe, 88Sr and 137Ba. It was found that the LA-ICP-MS method resulted in improved precision over the solution ICP-MS method. Twenty four (24) raw cotton samples and five white cotton T-Shirts were analyzed with the developed methods. It was also found that all the raw cotton samples from different sources were distinguishable from each other, as were all the cotton T-shirts resulting in zero type I errors and zero type II errors for the pairwise comparisons.



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