A new year brings a new job for me as Product Manager for Malvern’s Analytical Imaging range. This brings exciting challenges to think about possible new products and find new applications for our current ones. So that brings me over to Seattle to the American Academy of Forensic Science 66th Annual Scientific Meeting.

On Monday I attended the ‘Applications of Raman Spectroscopy for trace evidence examinations’ workshop chaired by Patrick Buzzini of West Virginia University. There was a really informative introduction to Raman spectroscopy given by Edward M Suzuki which explained the theory, compared it to Infrared spectroscopy and gave some ideas about where these tools can be used in Forensic investigations.

Booth at AAFS 2014

For me the talk titled ‘The Complementary Nature of Raman Microscopy and Polarised Light Microscopy: Applications and Case examples’ presented by Andrew M Bowen was really fascinating. He described how the techniques are used to identify components of powdered mixtures or trace components. There were examples where manual microscopy was used to discriminate different types of particles visually and then individual particles were selected and separated from the mixture for analysis by techniques such as EDS or Raman spectroscopy. Well clearly this looked like a perfect application where our Morphologi G3-ID could really help, not only automating the process, but more importantly allowing hundreds if not thousands of particles to be analysed by Raman and classed according to the chemical identity, thereby giving more confidence in results.

We also had a stand at the exhibition running from Wednesday to Friday. You can see our booth in the photo, all ready for action . I have enjoyed meeting of people from the world of Forensics and finding out more about where our characterization instruments might be able to help them. We had a Morphologi on the stand and example data sets from some ID analyses. The particular application we have worked on is identifying and characterizing adulterants in street drugs. By quantifying the percentage of each chemical species present, both active and adulterant, and/or analyzing the morphological profiles of each component, a robust “fingerprint” of the sample is created that can potentially be used to link a street drug seizure or counterfeit pharmaceutical back to the dealer/source. We hope this will be particularly interesting to investigators since the Morphologi G3-ID test is NON-Destructive, so the sample is fully recoverable in its original form. It certainly seemed to drum up interest and I have discovered that there may also be applications opportunities to look at for gunshot residue and soil contaminants.

If you’d like to read more, you can download the application note: ‘Identify, quantify & characterize adulterants and diluents in illicit drugs using Morphologi G3-ID’