Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Jose R. Almirall

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Rosemary Hickey-Vargas

Third Advisor's Name

Watson Lees

Fourth Advisor's Name

Jaroslava Miksovska

Fifth Advisor's Name

Kenneth Furton


forensic analysis, unprocessed cotton, elemental analysis, stable isotope ratios

Date of Defense



Cotton is the most abundant natural fiber in the world. Many countries are involved in the growing, importation, exportation and production of this commodity. Paper documentation claiming geographic origin is the current method employed at U.S. ports for identifying cotton sources and enforcing tariffs. Because customs documentation can be easily falsified, it is necessary to develop a robust method for authenticating or refuting the source of the cotton commodities. This work presents, for the first time, a comprehensive approach to the chemical characterization of unprocessed cotton in order to provide an independent tool to establish geographic origin. Elemental and stable isotope ratio analysis of unprocessed cotton provides a means to increase the ability to distinguish cotton in addition to any physical and morphological examinations that could be, and are currently performed. Elemental analysis has been conducted using LA-ICP-MS, LA-ICP-OES and LIBS in order to offer a direct comparison of the analytical performance of each technique and determine the utility of each technique for this purpose.

Multivariate predictive modeling approaches are used to determine the potential of elemental and stable isotopic information to aide in the geographic provenancing of unprocessed cotton of both domestic and foreign origin. These approaches assess the stability of the profiles to temporal and spatial variation to determine the feasibility of this application.

This dissertation also evaluates plasma conditions and ablation processes so as to improve the quality of analytical measurements made using atomic emission spectroscopy techniques. These interactions, in LIBS particularly, are assessed to determine any potential simplification of the instrumental design and method development phases. This is accomplished through the analysis of several matrices representing different physical substrates to determine the potential of adopting universal LIBS parameters for 532 nm and 1064 nm LIBS for some important operating parameters. A novel approach to evaluate both ablation processes and plasma conditions using a single measurement was developed and utilized to determine the “useful ablation efficiency” for different materials. The work presented here demonstrates the potential for an a priori prediction of some probable laser parameters important in analytical LIBS measurement.





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