Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Technique Offers Arson Investigators Faster, More Accurate Results

Published: Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Last Updated: Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Bookmark and Share
The new process for analyzing debris for traces of fire accelerants is faster and more accurate than conventional methods and produces less waste.

A research group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has demonstrated a new method for detecting ignitable liquids that could change the way arson fires are investigated. 

An arson investigation typically requires collecting one or two liters of ashes and debris from various locations within a fire scene in metal cans similar to those used for paint, and sending the material to a lab. The testing methods typically include gas and liquid chromatography or various versions of spectroscopy, with gas chromatography being the most widely used in fire debris analysis, according to the lead NIST researcher, Tom Bruno.

When the fire debris is received at the testing facility, samples are taken for testing. Sometimes this will involve suspending a strip with activated charcoal in the air or "headspace" directly above the sample in the paint can for a period of time that can vary, depending on the judgment of the analyst, for 2-3 hours or up to 16 hours.

Other testing methods include "dynamic purge and trap" of the headspace. And still another sampling method involves a newer solid-phase microextraction method (SPME) that does not destroy the sample. This later method, however, has a high displacement rate of heavier over lighter ignitable liquid components, is difficult to automate, makes preserving and archiving samples difficult and has not shown a consistent ability to obtain repeatable and quantitative results. Also, the SPME sampling method requires expensive equipment, and the SPME fibers are easily damaged. Still other methods are less sensitive and produce large amounts of chemical waste.

The vapor collection method developed by Bruno's group involves the dynamic adsorption of headspace vapors on short porous layer open tubular (PLOT) columns maintained at low temperature (as low as -40 C). The benefits of this method are many. The collection sensitivity is high; below 1 part per billion (ppb). The low temperature is achieved using a vortex tube connected to compressed air; it has no moving parts, and is attractive for use in environments with explosive or flammable materials.

After vapor collection, the PLOT capillaries can be heated (up to 160 C, again with the vortex tube), releasing the vapor. The capillaries used are robust and cheap, and this process is especially effective with relatively nonvolatile substances because of its wide operating temperature range. It also is not limited to water-borne samples, as most commercial sampling instruments are. And best of all, this PLOT-cryo method can be used to simultaneously test for up to eight different ignitable liquids from a single sample. This allows investigators to take multiple samples from each of several locations in a fire scene (such as a grid approach) in a short amount of time. This method also enables high repeatability and quality assurance of the testing process and is available in a portable unit that can perform the sampling in remote locations.

"This sampling method is faster, more efficient, recovers more analytics and produces much less waste than traditional methods," Bruno said. "And the sampling device and its components are much cheaper than traditional equipment." While the present study involved samples measured in the laboratory, Bruno has further developed the method to be field portable. A patent is pending for a device that will offer these same vapor collections, even at fire scenes. The self-contained portable unit is carried in a standard briefcase and may be available to arson investigators in as little as two years.

*J.E. Nichols, M.E. Harries, T.M. Lovestead and T.J. Bruno. Analysis of arson fire debris by low temperature dynamic headspace adsorption porous layer open tubular columns. Journal of Chromatography A. Volume 1334, 21 March 21, 2014.


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Determining the Age of Fingerprints
Watch the imprint of a tire track in soft mud, and it will slowly blur, the ridges of the pattern gradually flowing into the valleys. Researchers have tested the theory that a similar effect could be used to give forensic scientists a way to date fingerprints.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
New Members of U.S National Commission on Forensic Science Announced
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today announced six appointments to the National Commission on Forensic Science.
Friday, August 07, 2015
Giving Cancer a Deadly Fever
Heat may be the key to killing certain types of cancer, and new research has yielded unexpected results that should help optimize the design of magnetic nanoparticles that can be used to deliver heat directly to cancerous tumors.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Center for Improving Statistical Analysis of Forensic Evidence
The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology has awarded Iowa State University up to $20 million over five years to establish a Forensic Science Center of Excellence focused on pattern and digital evidence.
Tuesday, June 09, 2015
Measuring Volumes of Key 'Lab on a Chip' Components
NIST found a combination of techniques to effectively measure microfluidic channels, achieving an accuracy of within 5 percent for both a channel's depth and its bottom's width.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
NMR ‘Fingerprinting’ for Monoclonal Antibodies
Study by NIST researchers shows the use of NMR spectroscopy for measuring the structural congfiguration of monoclonal antibodies.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Ultra-enriched Silicon Paves the Road to Quantum Computing
Using a relatively straightforward technique, a team of NIST researchers has created what may be the most highly enriched silicon currently being produced.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
NIST, County Crime Lab Team Up on Ballistics Research
Partnership will contribute to a collection of topographic data from thousands of fired bullets and cartridge cases.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
NIST Instrument Enables High-speed Chemical Imaging of Tissues
Researchers have demonstrated a dramatically improved technique for analyzing biological cells and tissues based on characteristic molecular vibration "signatures."
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
NIST Names Members of Forensic Science Resource Committees
The new members, selected for their expertise in law, psychology and quality assurance, will serve on three advisory committees.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
New NIST Metamaterial Gives Light a One-Way Ticket
The device could someday play a role in optical information processing and in novel biosensing devices.
Thursday, July 03, 2014
NIST Presents an Infrastructure Plan to Strengthen Forensic Science Committees
NIST forensic science experts presented a plan for a new Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) at the first meeting of the National Commission on Forensic Science in Washington, D.C.
Sunday, February 09, 2014
DoJ and NIST Name Experts to First-Ever National Commission on Forensic Science
Members of the commission will work to improve the practice of forensic science by developing guidance concerning the intersections between forensic science and the criminal justice system.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
DNA and Quantum Dots: All That Glitters is Not Gold
Researchers have shown that the intensity of a quantum dot's fluorescence can be predictably increased or decreased.
Thursday, February 07, 2013
Cellular Landscaping: Predicting How, and How Fast, Cells Will Change
A research team at NIST has developed a model for making quantifiable predictions of how a group of cells will react and change in response to a given environment or stimulus—and how quickly.
Monday, November 05, 2012
Scientific News
NIH Study Finds Calorie Restriction Lowers Some Risk Factors for Age-Related Diseases
Two-year trial did not produce expected metabolic changes, but influenced other life span markers.
Immunotherapy Agent Benefits Patients with Drug-Resistant Multiple Myeloma in First Human Trial
Daratumumab proved generally safe in patients, even at the highest doses.
Low-level Arsenic Exposure Before Birth Associated with Early Puberty in Female Mice
Study examine whether low-dose arsenic exposure could have similar health outcomes in humans.
Inciting an Immune Attack On Cancer Cells
A new minimally invasive vaccine that combines cancer cells and immune-enhancing factors could be used clinically to launch a destructive attack on tumors.
‘Mutation-Tracking’ Blood Test for Breast Cancer
Scientists have developed a blood test for breast cancer able to identify which patients will suffer a relapse after treatment, months before tumours are visible on hospital scans.
Cellular Contamination Pathway for Heavy Elements Identified
Berkeley Lab scientists find that an iron-binding protein can transport actinides into cells.
Intensity of Desert Storms May Affect Ocean Phytoplankton
MIT study finds phytoplankton are extremely sensitive to changing levels of desert dust.
Common ‘Heart Attack’ Blood Test May Predict Future Hypertension
Small rises in troponin levels may have value as markers for subclinical heart damage and high blood pressure.
LaVision BioTec Reports on the Neuro Research on the Human Brain After Trauma
Company reports on the work of Dr Ali Ertürk from the Institute for Stroke and Dementia Research at LMU Munich.
NIH Study Shows No Benefit of Omega-3 Supplements for Cognitive Decline
Research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!