Comparison of Glass Fragments Using Particle-Induced X-Ray Emission (PIXE) Spectrometry


  • Funded through support from the National Science Foundation under grants MRI-0319523 and RUI: PHY-0651627.

  • Presented as a poster at the 60th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 18–23, 2008, in Washington DC.

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Paul A. DeYoung, Ph.D.
Department of Physics
Hope College, Holland
MI 49423


Abstract:  A procedure has been developed to analyze the trace element concentrations in glass fragments using particle-induced X-ray emission (PIXE) spectrometry. This method involves using accelerated protons to excite inner-shell electronic transitions of target atoms and recording the resultant X-rays to characterize the trace element concentrations. The protocol was able to identify those glass fragments that originated from different sources based on their elemental analyses. The protocol includes specific approaches to calculating uncertainties and handling measurements below the level of detection. The results indicate that this approach has increased sensitivity for several elements with higher atomic number compared with X-ray fluorescence methods. While not as sensitive as laser-ablation or inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry methods of dissolved samples, it is entirely nondestructive and entails a much simpler sample preparation process that may be used to presort glass fragments for more comprehensive elemental analysis. As such, the technique described may have a niche role in forensic glass analysis.