icing sugarHoax bioterrorism powder attacks are well known in the USA. Once it is established that the powder is not a real threat, the search is on to establish who made the hoax threat, and the clues can be right there in the powder itself.  Often artificial sweeteners are used, and whilst bulk Raman analysis can confirm that a powder is dextrose, Morphologically Directed Raman Spectroscopy (MDRS) can help go a step further and identify the specific sweetening agent, and therefore the brand, which may help in the search for the sender.  Brooke Kammrath, from the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences at the University of New Haven, recently gave a talk on this topic at the American Academy of Forensics Sciences’ (AAFS) 67th annual conference held in Orlando. Click here to check out an application note which tells the whole story.

I also went to AAFS and joined our North America Laser Diffraction and Imaging Product Specialist, Josemar Castillo, in Orlando for the conference where Malvern also had a booth. We had a Morphologi system on the stand and we met lots of forensic and crime scene investigators for the USA, South America and further afield. Once frequent topic of conversation was how automated imaging could be really useful in the analysis of trace evidence samples where you might want to scan hundreds of thousands of particles quickly, and then choose those that seem different or that belong to a certain class for chemical identification.

Malvern is at Pittcon, the laboratory science conference and exhibition this week, and we are taking the forensic theme there as Brooke will be presenting in Session 2170 – Techniques in Forensic Analysis on Wednesday, March 11 at 02:30 PM (Room 273).  Brooke will describe the application of MDRS to a variety of forensic evidence types, such as illicit drugs, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, hoax powders, soils and gunshot residues.  She will explain how the technique enable’s criminalists to obtain more information from forensic samples than is currently employed for investigations and adjudications.  If you’re at Pittcon, you should also take the time to visit the Malvern booth, 3545, to check out our MDRS instrument, the Morphologi G3-ID in person.

If you cannot get to the talk, look out for the video interview with Brooke that we will be posting on line during the conference. Brooke will also be a guest speaker at one of our webinars later in the year, so if you cannot get to Pittcon there will be another opportunity to get a feel for how MDRS can help with your forensic investigations.

Further Resources:

Application Note: Identify, quantify & characterize adulterants and diluents in illicit drugs using Morphologi G3-ID

Forensic analysis of an artificial sweetener commonly employed in hoax powder attacks using Morphologically Directed Raman spectroscopy

Video: Morphologi G3-ID – automated particle size, shape & chemical identity measurement