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Keywords:

  • forensic science;
  • advanced distillation curve;
  • evaporation patterns;
  • ignitable liquids;
  • trace analysis;
  • weathering

Abstract:  The recent National Academy of Sciences report on forensic sciences states that the study of fire patterns and debris in arson fires is in need of additional work and eventual standardization. We discuss a recently introduced method that can provide predicted evaporation patterns for ignitable liquids as a function of temperature. The method is a complex fluid analysis protocol, the advanced distillation curve approach, featuring a composition explicit data channel for each distillate fraction (for qualitative, quantitative, and trace analysis), low uncertainty temperature measurements that are thermodynamic state points that can be modeled with an equation of state, consistency with a century of historical data, and an assessment of the energy content of each distillate fraction. We discuss the application of the method to kerosenes and gasolines and outline how expansion of the scope of fluids to other ignitable liquids can benefit the criminalist in the analysis of fire debris for arson.