Since forensic evidentiary backlogs are indicative of the growing need for cost-effective, high-throughput instrumental methods, this article profiles one such emerging technology that shows high promise in meeting this demand while also allowing on-site forensic investigation; namely, portable mass spectrometric (MS) instrumentation, particularly that which enables the coupling to ambient ionization techniques.
Although the benefits of rapid, on-site screening of contraband can be anticipated, the inherent legal implications of field-collected data require that the analytical performance of technology used be commensurate with accepted techniques. To this end, comprehensive analytical validation studies are required before broad incorporation by forensic practitioners can be considered. This is the focus of this work. Pertinent performance characteristics such as throughput, selectivity, accuracy/precision, method robustness, and ruggedness have been investigated. Reliability in the form of false positive/negative response rates have also been assessed, examining the effect of variables such as user training and experience level. To provide flexibility toward broad chemical evidence analysis, a suite of rapidly-interchangeable ion sources has been developed and characterized through the analysis of common illicit chemicals and emerging threats like substituted phenethylamines. (Publisher abstract modified)
Date Published: June 1, 2017