U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Interlaboratory Evaluations of the Performance of Elemental Analytical Methods for the Forensic Analysis and Comparisons of Electrical Tapes

NCJ Number
252931
Author(s)
Claudia Martinez-Lopez, Tatiana Trejos, Sally Coulson, John Goodpaster, Katherine Igowsky, Felix Kuczelinis, Andria Mehltretter, Edward Pollock, Ulrich Simmross, Robyn Weimeri, Peter Weis, Jose R. Almiralla
Date Published
March 2019
Length
12 pages
Annotation
This study evaluated the performance of the conventional methods used in forensic analysis of adhesive tapes (physical and microscopic examination, FTIR, Py-GC-MS, and SEM-EDS) and the more recently developed elemental methods, LIBS and LA-ICP-MS, for the comparison of tape samples in different laboratories.
Abstract
Adhesive tapes are an important type of evidence related to violent crimes, such as the construction of improvised explosive devices and kidnappings, and are also involved in other types of common evidence, such as drug packaging. The methods of comparison of tape evidence consist of physical and microscopic examination followed by chemical analysis of the organic and inorganic components inherent to the tapes as part of their formulations. In the current study, two interlaboratory exercises were designed to study the performance of the different analytical methods for the forensic analysis of electrical tapes. The exercises were developed with the objective of imitating forensic case scenarios where known and questioned tapes are compared following the laboratory’s analytical protocol. The participants were asked to compare the tape samples as in a regular forensic case. Seven laboratories participated in the two interlaboratory exercises. All the laboratories performing SEM-EDS in both interlaboratory exercises (#1 and #2) were able to correctly associate the pairs of tapes originating from the same rolls; therefore, the rate of false negatives was zero. Two of the laboratories performing SEM-EDS for the first interlaboratory exercise incorrectly associated two pairs of tapes belonging to different rolls, resulting in a 17-percent false positive rate. One of the laboratories performing SEM-EDS for interlaboratory exercise #2 incorrectly associated two pairs of tapes belonging to different rolls, resulting in a 13-percent false positive rate. Up to seven and eight elements were detected by SEM-EDS for interlaboratory exercise #1 and #2, respectively. The increased sensitivity and selectivity of LIBS and LA-ICP-MS methods enabled the distinguishing of all the pairs of tapes originating from different sources and the correct association of the tapes originating from the same rolls, resulting in no false positives or false negatives. In addition, increased characterization of the samples was obtained by detecting up to 14 elements by LIBS and 27 elements by LA-ICP-MS for interlaboratory exercise #1, and 17 elements by LIBS and 32 elements by LA-ICP-MS for interlaboratory exercise #2. A match criterion of ±5 s enabled the numerical comparison of LIBS ratios and LA-ICP-MS signal areas for a more objective assessment of the differences between the tape samples. (Publisher abstract modified)
Date Published: March 1, 2019