SEM-EDS analysis and discrimination of forensic soil

Cengiz S., Karaca A., Cakir I., Uner H., Sevindik A.

FORENSIC SCIENCE INTERNATIONAL, vol.141, no.1, pp.33-37, 2004 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier


Soils vary among different areas, and have some characteristics because of the natural effects and transfers made by human and other living beings in time. So that forensic examination of soil is not only concerned with the analysis of naturally occurring rocks, minerals, vegetation, and animal matter. It also includes the detection of such manufactured materials such as ions from synthetic fertilizers and from different environments (e.g., nitrate, phosphate, and sulfate) as environmental artifacts (e.g., lead or objects as glass, paint chips, asphalt, brick fragments, and cinders) whose presence may impart soil with characteristics that will make it unique to a particular location. Many screening and analytical methods have been applied for determining the characteristics which differentiate and discriminate the forensic soil samples but none of them easily standardized. Some of the methods that applied in forensic laboratories in forensic soil discrimination are the color comparison of the normal air-dried (dehumidified) and overheated soil samples, macroscopic observation, and low-power stereo-microscopic observation, determination of anionic composition by capillary electrophoresis (CE), and the elemental composition by scanning electron microscope (SEM)-energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (EDS) and other high sensitivity techniques. The objective of this study was to show the effect of the application of 9 tonnes/cm(2) pressure on the elemental compositions obtained by SEM-EDS technique and comparing the discrimination power of the pressed-homogenized and not homogenized forensic soil samples. For this purpose soil samples from 17 different locations of Istanbul were collected. Aliquots of the well mixed samples were dried in an oven at 110-120degreesC and sieved by using 0.5 mm sieve and then the undersieve fraction(<0.5 mm) of these samples put on an adhesive tape placed on a stub. About 100-150 mg aliquots of dried, sieved samples were pressed under 9 tonnes/cm(2) pressure by KBr disk preparation apparatus of an infrared spectrophotometer. Surfaces of the randomized particles and the pressed disks of the soil samples were scanned and the elemental compositions were determined with scanning electron microscope JEO-JSM-5600 equipped with an energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer OXFORD Link-ISIS-300. The samples from top of the sieves were examined with stereo-microscope equipped with JVC-TK-128DE color video camera and JVC-GV-PT2, digital video printer. Natural and artificial materials that have characteristic features were identified. Then for additional confirmation ail soil samples were dried at 120&DEG;C and over 780&DEG;C and their colors compared. We concluded that pressing the whole sieved soil samples under 9 tonnes/cm(2) pressure results in smashing over the harder particles into the softer matrix and results in homogenization of the soil sample. The elemental compositions of these samples obtained by SEM-EDS with 10-fold less standard deviation (S.D.) values and so that with more reproducibility and discrimination power. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.