Association of glass fragments by their trace elemental content using ICP-MS and LA-ICP-MS in the analysis scheme

José R. Almirall, Shirly Montero, Kenneth Furton

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The importance of glass as evidence of association between a crime event and a suspect has been recognized for some time. Glass is a fragile material that is often found at the scenes of crimes such as burglaries, hit-and-run accidents and violent crime offenses. The physical and chemical properties of glass can be used to differentiate between possible sources and as evidence of association between two fragments of glass thought to originate from the same source. Refractive index (RI) comparisons have been used for this purpose but due to the improved control over glass manufacturing processes, RI values often cannot differentiate glasses, even if the glass originates from different sources. Elemental analysis methods such as NAA, XRF, ICP-AES, and Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) have also been used for the comparison of trace elemental compositions and these techniques have been shown to provide an improvement in the discrimination of glass fragments over RI comparisons alone. The multi-element capability and the sensitivity of ICP-MS combined with the simplified sample introduction of laser ablation prior to ion detection provides for an excellent and relatively non-destructive technique for elemental analysis of glass fragments. The methodology for solution analysis (digestion procedure) and solid sample analysis (laser ablation) of glass is reported and the analytical results are compared. An isotope dilution method is also reported as a high precision technique for elemental analysis of glass fragments. The optimum sampling parameters for laser ablation, for semi-quantitative analysis and element ratio comparisons are also presented. Finally, the results of a case involving the breaking of 15 vehicle windows in an airport parking lot and the association of a suspect to the breakings by the glass fragments found on his person are also presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-71
Number of pages11
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes
EventSensors, and Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence (C31) Technologies for Homeland Defense and Law Enforcement - Orlando,FL, United States
Duration: Apr 1 2002Apr 5 2002


  • Elemental analysis
  • Glass
  • Isotope dilution
  • Statistical analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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