Spectrophotometers: The Leading Choice for Reliable Forensic Analysis

Just the other day I found myself in a discussion among friends about the various applications of color measurement. A good friend of mine, who works as an undercover narcotics officer, informed me that the police force relies almost daily on spectrophotometers for forensic analysis. Although I am familiar with many other uses of spectrophotometers and color analysis, this new area of spectrophotometric technology was something I wanted to delve into a bit more.

test tube forensic analysis
Spectroscopy is commonly used in analytical forensic pharmacology and toxicology and is valued for its non-destructive methods and accuracy.
Image Source: Flickr user U.S. Army RDECOM

The role of spectrophotometers in forensic pharmacology and toxicology

The truth is that spectrophotometers and color analysis play a vital role in analytical forensic pharmacology and toxicology. Although microscopy is an important tool for forensic analysis, spectrophotometers have the ability to analyze visible light and require only a small sample size for analysis. Also, the various methods of spectroscopy such as UV (ultra violet), IR (infrared), and NIR (near infrared) are able to evaluate different areas of the visible spectrum without jeopardizing the integrity of a sample, therefore allowing multiple analyses of a single piece of evidence.

Pharmacology and toxicology sample analysis is important for medical and legal investigators because it offers the ability to provide information regarding the cause of death, poisoning, and/or possible drug use. Evidence that is collected at a crime scene may include unknown pharmaceuticals or only trace residues of a substance that need to undergo analysis. If a substance has been ingested, it may be even less concentrated and in some situations, a chemical compound may possibly be altered significantly. Advanced spectrophotometers use color to analyze the chemical structure of the sample through light absorption value measurements. Using Beers’ Law, forensic analysis can separate the properties of the unknown substance through color absorption and the output data. This process is often used as a preliminary test to identify unknown compounds for further testing purposes.

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drug forensic analysis
Spectrophotometers use absorbance values to separate and identify unknown substances for forensic analysis.
Image Source: Flickr user Jack Spades

UV spectrophotometers for forensic analysis

UV spectroscopy is the preferred method of identification in forensic analysis. Bodily fluids typically serve as key pieces of evidence in forensic investigations, and the non-destructive methods of UV spectroscopy offer a solution for multiple sample choice analysis. Biochemical analysis can be effective, but requires destructive methods and the use of dangerous substances. UV spectrophotometers are also highly accurate and can be designed for portability and durability. These factors are an immediate advantage regarding the nature of forensic analysis and crime scene investigation.

crime scene forensic analysis
Key details of a crime scene are often revealed through spectrophotometric analysis.
Image source: Flickr user Ariane Middel

Viscosity and sample variations are also addressed with advanced spectrophotometry, and instrumentation can be designed to measure variations in substances. Quantitative data allows forensic analysts to accurately decipher critical evidence and provide reliable results. Human-eye analysis is highly subjective and cannot guarantee accurate results, leaving a wide margin for error. Within this field, there simply is no room for mistakes. Today’s researchers have created spectrophotometers that utilize human eye technology and offer objective data which can be upheld in an investigative report.

HunterLab is a leader in advanced spectrophotometric technology. Over the course of more than 60 years in the world of color measurement, HunterLab has developed a variety of products designed for various industry needs. We offer a wide selection of rugged and portable equipment designed for advanced absorption analysis. Forensic analysis is dependent on UV spectroscopy, and with new research and developments in color analysis, instrumentation is continually changing to allow for accurate results and data. HunterLab is committed to leading the competition in research and development, yet we make every effort to offer individualized attention to client needs and changes. Contact HunterLab to learn more about new advancements in spectrophotometry for forensic analysis today.

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