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Classifying Single Fibers Based on Fluorinated Surface Treatments

NCJ Number
Michael. J. Dolan; Robert D. Blackledge
Date Published
10 pages
This study examined the potential of fluoropolymer fiber coatings, which are used to impart oil and water-repellent properties in fabrics, for differentiating between fibers.
Fibers are an important form of forensic evidence, but their evidential value can be severely limited when the identified characteristics of the fibers are common, such as blue cotton. Detecting chemical fiber treatments offers an avenue to further classify fibers and to improve their evidential value. The thin nature of these fiber surface modifications creates an analytical challenge for their detection on a single fiber, a typical sample size for forensic evidence. Specifically, pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (py-GC-MS) has shown promising selectivity but the sensitivity of the method is not adequate for single-fiber analysis of fluorinated coatings. To overcome this challenge, the current project used a newly developed elemental ionization source, plasma-assisted reaction chemical ionization (PARCI). The high sensitivity of py-GC-PARCI-MS for elemental fluorine analysis offers selective and sensitive detection of fluorinated pyrolysates among the non-fluorinated pyrolysates of the fiber core. As a result, fluoropolymer coatings are detected from 10-mm single-fiber samples. The technique is applied for classification of 22 fiber types, resulting in four distinct groups via hierarchical cluster analysis based on similarity of fluorine pyrograms. These results present the first study to classify fibers based on fluorinated coatings and highlight the potential of py-GC-PARCI-MS for forensic analyses.

Date Published: January 1, 2019