Hope College Physics Department
Research Experiences for Undergraduates
Summer 2011
Project Summary

 

Project Title: Comparative Analysis of Forensic Glass
Student Name: Curtis Johnson
Student's Home Institution: University of Wisconsin Eau Claire
Research Advisor: Dr. Paul DeYoung and Dr. Graham Peaslee
Source of Support:

This work is supported by the National Science Foundation under NSF-REU Grant No. PHY/DMR-1004811.

The current process for elemental analysis of glass, laser ablation ICP, is destructive and time consuming. Part of the sample must be ablated, destroying the piece of glass; this can be a hindrance when working with limited glass from a crime scene. Alternatively, Particle Induced X-ray Emission (PIXE) is an ion beam analysis technique that uses a particle accelerator to analyze the chemical composition of a sample from emitted X-rays. PIXE is a completely non-destructive method, which is less time consuming than ICP. This makes PIXE a viable option to presort glass obtained at a crime scene. Concentrations of six elements (Ca, Ti, Mn, Fe, Sr, and Zr) were investigated. Extreme care was taken to eliminate systematic error present in the experiment. Variation in both absolute and calcium normalized levels of these elements were compared demonstrating that PIXE can be used on its own to identify the possibility that two samples have come from the different provenance.
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