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Forensic Analysis of Printing Inks Using Tandem Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy and Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2015
8 pages
This study evaluated a tandem LIBS/LA-ICP-MS system that combines the benefits of both LIBS and LA-ICP-MS for the characterization of samples of printing inks (toners, inkjets, intaglio and offset).
Elemental analysis, using either LA-ICP-MS or LIBS, can be used for the chemical characterization of materials of forensic interest to discriminate between source materials originating from different sources and also for the association of materials known to originate from the same source. Although typical discrimination between different ink sources was found to be > 99 percent for a variety of inks when only LA-ICP-MS was used for the analysis, additional discrimination was achieved by combining the elemental results from the LIBS analysis to the LA-ICP-MS analysis in the tandem technique, enhancing the overall discrimination capability of the individual laser ablation methods. The LIBS measurements of the Ca, Fe, K and Si signals, in particular, improved the discrimination for this specific set of different ink samples previously shown to exhibit similar LA-ICP-MS elemental profiles. The combination of these two techniques in a single setup resulted in better discrimination of the printing inks with two distinct fingerprint spectra, providing information from atomic/ionic emissions and isotopic composition (m/z) for each ink sample. A subset of 9 black laser toners, 10 colored (CMYK) inkjet samples, 12 colored (CMYK) offset samples and 12 intaglio inks originating from different manufacturing sources were analyzed to evaluate the discrimination capability of the tandem method. These samples were selected because they presented a similar elemental profile by LA-ICP-MS. (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: February 1, 2015