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Atomic Spectroscopy for Forensic Applications

Forensic Science

  1. Diana M. Grant,
  2. Charles A. Peters

Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

DOI: 10.1002/9780470027318.a1110

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry

How to Cite

Grant, D. M. and Peters, C. A. 2006. Atomic Spectroscopy for Forensic Applications. Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry. .

Author Information

  1. FBI Laboratory, Washington, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2006


Forensic science is a discipline that evolved from the interaction between law enforcement and the scientific community. The typical operating budget of laboratory facilities created to support law enforcement is often far below what is necessary for practical modernization. Hence, routine analyses that require low maintenance and can be readily performed with practical experience were quickly instituted as standard procedures in many such laboratories. As an example, atomic absorption (AA) spectroscopy has served the forensic community for over 40 years and continues to work effectively for such diverse applications as gunshot powder residue analysis and toxicological examinations in suspected heavy metal poisoning cases.

These and other traditional forensic applications have also utilized other forms of spectrochemical analysis such as neutron activation. The advantage of the various forms of atomic spectroscopy over these other methods lies in the practical considerations of accessibility and cost as much as in sampling requirements and detection limits. From well established AA methods to the increasing number of forensic applications being developed for laser ablation/inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA/ICPMS), modern atomic spectroscopy has proven itself to be a compelling and evolving tool in the investigation of forensic evidence.