Soil examination for a forensic trace evidence laboratory: Part 1: Spectroscopic techniques

Brenda WOODS, Chris LENNARD, Paul Kirkbride, James ROBERTSON

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


In the past, forensic soil examination was a routine aspect of trace evidence examination in forensic science. However, in Australia, the apparent need for soil examinations has diminished and with it the capability of forensic science laboratories to carry out soil examination has been eroded. In recent years, due to soil examinations contributing to some high profile investigations, interest in soil examinations has been renewed. Routine soil examinations conducted in a forensic science laboratory by trace evidence scientists can be facilitated if the examinations are conducted using the instrumentation routinely used by these examiners. Spectroscopic techniques such as visible microspectrophotometry (MSP) and Attenuated Total Reflectance (ATR) Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) are routinely used by trace evidence analysts for the colour and compositional analysis, respectively, of forensic items, including paints, fibres, inks and toners, tapes, adhesives and other miscellaneous examinations. This article presents an examination of the feasibility of using MSP and ATR-FTIR as a first step in the forensic comparison of soils with particular reference to Australian soil samples. This initial study demonstrates MSP and ATR-FTIR can effectively be used as a screening test for the discrimination of "forensic-sized" soil samples prior to submission for more detailed analyses by a soil expert.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-194
Number of pages8
JournalForensic Science International
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


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