Glass is a common form of trace evidence found at many scenes of crimes in the form of small fragments. These glass fragments can transfer to surrounding objects and/or persons and may provide forensic investigators valuable information to link a suspect to the scene of a crime. Since the elemental composition of different glass sources can be very similar, a highly discriminating technique is required to distinguish between fragments that have originated from different sources.
The research presented here demonstrates that Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) is a viable analytical technique for the association and discrimination of glass fragments. The first part of this research describes the optimization of the LIBS experiments including the use of different laser wavelengths to investigate laser-material interaction. The use of a 266 nm excitation laser provided the best analytical figures of merit with minimal damage to the sample. The resulting analytical figures of merit are presented. The second part of this research evaluated the sensitivity of LIBS to associate or discriminate float glass samples originating from the same manufacturing plants and produced at approximately the same time period. Two different sample sets were analyzed ranging in manufacturing dates from days to years apart. Eighteen (18) atomic emission lines corresponding to the elements Sr, K, Fe, Ca, Al, Ba, Na, Mg and Ti, were chosen because of their detection above the method detection limits and for presenting differences between the samples. Ten elemental ratios producing the most discrimination were selected for each set. When all the ratios are combined in a comparison, 99% of the possible pairs were discriminated using the optimized LIBS method generating typical analytical precisions of ~5% RSD.
The final study consisted of the development of a new approach for the use of LIBS as a quantitative analysis of ultra-low volume solution analysis using aerosols and microdrops. Laser induced breakdown spectroscopy demonstrated to be an effective technique for the analysis of as low as 90 pL for microdrop LIBS with 1 pg absolute LOD and 20 µL for aerosol LIBS with an absolute LOD of ~100 fg.