Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2018, $462,091)
The purpose of this proposal is to optimize the capabilities of surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) for the detection and identification of trace amounts of blood, semen, vaginal fluid and saliva, and their mixtures for forensic purposes. The continued development of this optically based methodology will lead to a single instrumental platform for the rapid, sensitive, easy-to-use, cost-effective, on-site, nondestructive, detection and confirmatory identification of human body fluids commonly found at crime scenes. No such single platform is currently available for this purpose. It will allow the rapid confirmatory identification of biological materials/fluids with minimal destruction to evidence samples at crime scene locations or from evidence taken from crime scenes. Due to the sensitivity of SERS, suspected human body fluid samples that may be invisible to the eye (but may be located with the aid of alternate light sources, etc.), may be identified leaving sufficient quantity for subsequent DNA analysis. In forensic lab settings, SERS can be used to identify the original body fluid at the same time as genetic analysis. In addition, distinguishing different body fluid mixtures via SERS can play an important role in criminal prosecution of sexual assault crimes. The rapid speed of confirmatory SERS in-field measurements have the capability to inform criminal investigation directions prior to traditional confirmatory laboratory testing. This project leverages the results of a recent NIJ funded project that demonstrated the capabilities of this optical approach for trace body fluid identification. Optimized sample protocols, effects of household substrates, body fluid mixture resolution, development of SERS active swabs, blinded body fluid identification tests will be carried out. Our high performance portable Raman microscope will be used to demonstrate in-field capabilities of this technology and tested by forensic scientists at the Boston Police Crime Laboratory. At the end of this award period, all the elements for an integrated SERS based, portable trace body fluid detection and identification platform (sample preparation protocols, spectral reference library, software procedures) will be available for field deployment.
This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law, and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR