Improvements to Laser Ablation-Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry for Quantitative Analysis using Short Pulse UV Laser


Laser ablation inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) is a non-destructive method for trace elemental analysis of solids.  Trace element composition can be useful in forensic applications for matching or attribution studies, in which a material recovered from a crime scene is compared to one from a suspect.  This project will utilize the latest development in LA technology:  a new short pulse (~100 fs) ultraviolet (266 nm) laser.  Such a laser is believed to provide particulates from the sample that are closer to its real elemental composition and that are much better atomized and ionized when they're introduced into the ICP.  The result is more accurate elemental identification and better quantification with less need for closely matched solid standards materials.  When combined with a magnetic sector ICP-MS instrument, the result is very high sensitivity (e.g., sub-ppb levels can be measured) and selectivity for trace elements.  These improved analytical capabilities should extend the scope of application of trace element evidence to different materials (e.g., glass panes, metals, plastics, tapes) of forensic interest.  Short validation studies to investigate the potential forensic value of such elemental information will be done on selected materials of potential interest.


National Institute of Justice



Sam Houk


Phone: (515) 294-9462