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Investigation of quartz grain surface textures by atomic force microscopy for forensic analysis

Konopinski, DI; Hudziak, S; Morgan, RM; Bull, PA; Kenyon, AJ; (2012) Investigation of quartz grain surface textures by atomic force microscopy for forensic analysis. Forensic Science International , 223 (1-3) 245 - 255. 10.1016/j.forsciint.2012.09.011.

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Abstract

This paper presents a study of quartz sand grain surface textures using atomic force microscopy (AFM) to image the surface. Until now scanning electron microscopy (SEM) has provided the primary technique used in the forensic surface texture analysis of quartz sand grains as a means of establishing the provenance of the grains for forensic reconstructions. The ability to independently corroborate the grain type classifications is desirable and provides additional weight to the findings of SEM analysis of the textures of quartz grains identified in forensic soil/sediment samples. AFM offers a quantitative means of analysis that complements SEM examination, and is a non-destructive technique that requires no sample preparation prior to scanning. It therefore has great potential to be used for forensic analysis where sample preservation is highly valuable. By taking quantitative topography scans, it is possible to produce 3D representations of microscopic surface textures and diagnostic features for examination. Furthermore, various empirical measures can be obtained from analysing the topography scans, including arithmetic average roughness, root-mean-square surface roughness, skewness, kurtosis, and multiple gaussian fits to height distributions. These empirical measures, combined with qualitative examination of the surfaces can help to discriminate between grain types and provide independent analysis that can corroborate the morphological grain typing based on the surface textures assigned using SEM. Furthermore, the findings from this study also demonstrate that quartz sand grain surfaces exhibit a statistically self-similar fractal nature that remains unchanged across scales. This indicates the potential for a further quantitative measure that could be utilised in the discrimination of quartz grains based on their provenance for forensic investigations.

Type:Article
Title:Investigation of quartz grain surface textures by atomic force microscopy for forensic analysis
Location:Ireland
DOI:10.1016/j.forsciint.2012.09.011
Publisher version:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2012.09.011
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Electronic and Electrical Engineering
UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Security and Crime Science

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