ARSON – The aim of this research is to determine unique molecular signatures of arson fires. Since numerous accelerants may be used and a number of other factors contribute to the combustion of materials, the researchers will be studying the effects of materials, time, and temperature for fires started with and without using accelerants in order to find unique molecule(s) that will be detectable in the fire debris. Each variable will be controlled in a separate fire, debris collected and the headspace will be analyzed with the gas chromatograph – mass spectrometer (GC-MS) available in the Chemistry Department. The dependence and independence of the signatures to the conditions of fire, material and extinguishment will be determined. This information could be used for the next generation of “sniffer” technology in arson detection.
FINGERPRINT AGE – The aim of this research project is to investigate whether some of the constituents of a latent fingerprint (namely chloride and protein)can be used to determine the age of a fingerprint. Protocols will be developed to measure these constituents. Since one of these (protein) is subject to decay, while the other (chloride) is not, a ratio of the two components should yield information regarding the age of the print. This is a long-elusive and very important piece of information in the use of fingerprint evidence.
FIBER ANALYSIS/AGING - The object of this research is to develop a library of FT-IR spectra of common fibers utilizing the Attenuated Total Reflectance (ATR) attachment. The sensitivity of the spectra to changes in the thickness of the fiber, coloration, washings and other environmental effects upon the sample (by the ATR) will be determined. These variables are all dependent upon the depth, density and surface of the plastic being analyzed. These are features of the ATR that are unique to this equipment and which may prove useful in the identification of such materials. This has the potential to add to the data base of forensic science in the analysis of materials.
LANTHANIDE SPECTROSCOPY - Lanthanide ions (the trivalent species of the metals of the lanthanide contraction) have been found to be useful spectroscopic probes of biological systems for calcium ions. However, specific information that can be inferred by the spectral changes in absorption, emission, polarized or magnetic resonance techniques has so far eluded biochemists. We will undertake systematic studies of known lanthanide systems and environments to determine the causal relationship between empirical spectral data and the molecular environment of the lanthanide environment.