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Term of the Month

Defining Criminal Justice Research

Welcome to NIJ’s Term of the Month. Each month we are featuring a term from our scientific research portfolios informing significant American justice system issues and solutions. Along with a definition, we are providing links to related resources that illuminate the featured term.

June 2021 — Mass Spectrometry

Mass spectrometry is a tool for measuring different fragments of a compound. In forensic science, mass spectrometry can be used, for example, to identify and discriminate individual drugs in seized substances. A mass spectrometer takes a sample, ionizes and breaks the compounds in it, and sorts the fragments by the ratio of their weight to their charge. The pattern of the captured fragments makes a spectral signature that can be used to identify the compound.

Resources and information

Date Created: January 28, 2021