LIBS proves an effective technique for the rapid non-destructive analytical examination of writing inks

LIBS ink analysis

Questioned Document Examiners seeking to compare or identify writing inks have been urged to consider Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) as a method of rapid chemical analysis after researchers from Jagiellonian University, Krakow, demonstrated the robust and effective performance of LIBS as a method for the comparative analysis of inks.

Published by the Laboratory for Forensic Chemistry at Jagellonian Universitys Department of Analytical Chemistry, the paper put to the test the ability of LIBS analysis to differentiate multiple samples of black, blue and red inks by their elemental composition.

Tests proved that even when printed on paper with a high spectral response, the LIBS system achieved a discrimination rate of 83% blue, 82% black and 61% for red inks. In some cases it was even possible to differentiate inks produced by the same manufacturer.

Unlike other methods of elemental comparison such as particle induced X-ray emission (PIXE) and capillary electrophoresis (CE), LIBS is a relatively low-cost and rapid technique that causes minimal destruction to evidence leaving the document intact for further examination if required.

The results demonstrated within the paper add further weight to the argument for LIBS to be considered as an essential capability for every modern QDE laboratory. Previous studies conducted using the Foster + Freeman ECCO, a turnkey bench-top LIBS analyser, have already demonstrated the ability of LIBS to discriminate paper types, pencil leads, and to identify security documents.

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