Identification of forensic fabrics using a portable Raman spectrometer

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Courtesy of B&W Tek

At a crime scene, a police officer collects a fiber sample that may prove to be invaluable evidence in identifying a criminal or exonerating an innocent person. While FTIR has been used for analysis in the past, the strong absorption of the fabric or the glass slide where it is mounted makes the spectrum very hard to interpret. In recent years, Raman spectroscopy has been studied extensively for forensic fiber analysis because of the high selectivity of Raman signatures, non-destruction nature of the test, and the ability to conduct the analysis without any sample preparation. The Raman test can be performed directly on fabrics or fibers mounted on glass slide with very little interference from the mounting resin or the glass.

In this study, six types of undyed fabric samples were tested: diacetate, bleached cotton, polyester, polyamide (nylon), acrylic, and wool. A B&W Tek i-Raman™ EX portable Raman spectrometer with 1064nm laser excitation along with a fiber optic probe holder was used. The video microscope sampling accessory can be used for testing on thin fibers and is very useful for microsamples. and for looking at specific spots on a sample.

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