Enriching Forensic Science with Analytical Techniques


Forensic science is a multidisciplinary industry that impacts society by providing knowledge about criminal investigations. It is a field that is heavily impacted by technological innovations and developments as new knowledge can be revealed from old evidence which can then be used in court to solve unsolved cases.

This means there is a need to develop new analytical techniques to enrich forensic science subfields like toxicology, trace evidence, and chemistry. All of these fields work together to create a cohesive body of data and evidence that could yield answers to crimes. The demand for cutting edge methods to reveal information from collected evidence plays an important role in creating a safer society.

Pittcon will highlight the themes within analytical techniques of forensic science and describe details of recent innovations by researchers in multiple forensic fields such as toxicology, trace evidence, and forensic chemistry.

Advancements in Drug Analysis

The opioid epidemic has been a serious issue in the United States for years and is only getting worse as drug-related deaths are on the rise. The challenge of adulterated fentanyl has made the identification and analysis of drugs more difficult for forensic toxicologists.

Raman spectroscopy has been a long-time used methodology in revealing a sample’s molecular structure. Recently, an innovative application of Raman effectively detects trace levels of fentanyl in contaminated mixtures in a portable manner. This innovation can effectively separate the compounds of adulterated drugs and be quickly performed on-site to help limit the exposure of workers in potentially contaminated areas.

Aptamer-based sensors have also been developed for the detection of fentanyl at low concentrations. Sensor use is a highly specific and high-affinity binding technique for targeting samples render it valuable to widespread forensic drug analysis.

Analytical Techniques for Trace Evidence

The need to keep up with technological advances to improve upon existing forensic techniques also extends to trace evidence. Due to the delicate and easily damaged nature of samples like hair, fibers, gunshot residue, and fingerprints, making techniques more efficient and nondamaging is crucial.

Innovations like vibrational spectroscopy and the novel combination of mass spectroscopy with Raman spectroscopy will address these challenges and also lower false positives that often arise with firearm and gunshot residue analysis. Furthermore, the use of LIBS to detect GSR with high specificity and sensitivity has expanded the parameters that forensic firearm specialists can analyze.

Additionally, the role of nanotechnology and portable LED systems for fingerprint analysis will be explored. Due to the precision of nanoparticles and the ability to immediately upload and compare fingerprints to a cell phone app database, this technique overcomes the traditional challenges of powder. Furthermore, the ability of MALDI-MS technology to use lasers and study degrading triacylglycerols in latent fingerprints can now provide forensic researchers with a potential age of prints, clarifying connections of people to crimes.

The value of portable technologies able to be employed on-site will streamline investigation and evidence collection processes, providing more timely, accurate, and detailed information to help forward cases.

The Important Role of Forensic Chemistry

As an ever-evolving body of knowledge, science requires continuous research and resources. Forensic science specifically relies on the multidisciplinary nature of its branches, including forensic chemistry. The role of analytical chemistry in forensics is valuable and its knowledge base is applied across laboratory analytical testing.

Forensic science calls for collaboration. The intersection of universities, laboratories, federal agencies, and industry producers create a complex network of knowledge exchange for the betterment of society. Multiple presenters from organizations like the FBI and the Center for Advanced Research in Forensic Science (CARFS) will highlight the significance and productivity of such collaborations and why partnerships are necessary in the crime-solving industry. Pittcon will also cover the implications of limited funding in forensic science and what solutions collaborations and investing in the next generation of forensic scientists provide.

Forensic Science at Pittcon 2022

A diverse selection of presenters and their work at Pittcon will provide insight into how innovations in analytical techniques enrich forensic science. Multiple experts and industries will be present to discuss the emerging technologies and methods in further detail, including the advanced technologies and procedures described above.

All these topics, and more, will be covered at this year’s Pittcon, which is taking place from March 8th to March 12th. A range of talks, symposia and courses will illustrate how researchers are continually developing incredibly more efficient and streamlined technologies in order to increase the evidence analyzing capabilities of forensic researchers. For more details of these visit the Pittcon website.

Many industry manufacturers of analytical equipment, products and services specifically designed for the analysis of forensic evidence, including ThermoFisher, Horiba, Agilent, and Shimadzu, will be present at Pittcon to discuss the latest additions to their technological abilities and address your unique analytical requirements.


About Pittcon

Pittcon® is a registered trademark of The Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, a Pennsylvania non-profit organization. Co-sponsored by the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh and the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh, Pittcon is the premier annual conference and exposition on laboratory science.

Proceeds from Pittcon fund science education and outreach at all levels, kindergarten through adult. Pittcon donates more than a million dollars a year to provide financial and administrative support for various science outreach activities including science equipment grants, research grants, scholarships and internships for students, awards to teachers and professors, and grants to public science centers, libraries and museums.

Visit pittcon.org for more information.

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Last updated: Feb 1, 2024 at 7:37 AM


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