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Open AccessArticle

Modern Instrumental Limits of Identification of Ignitable Liquids in Forensic Fire Debris Analysis

1
Department of Chemistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2G2, Canada
2
Institute of Forensic Research, Westerplatte 9, 31-033 Krakow, Poland
3
Department of Analytical Chemistry, Institute of Chemistry, The University of Silesia, Szkolna 9, 40-006 Katowice, Poland
4
Royal Canadian Mounted Police, National Forensic Laboratory Services-Edmonton, 15707-118th Avenue, Edmonton, AB T5V 1B7, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
The author has retired from Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Separations 2018, 5(4), 58; https://doi.org/10.3390/separations5040058
Received: 14 September 2018 / Revised: 21 November 2018 / Accepted: 4 December 2018 / Published: 10 December 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Fire Debris Analysis)
Forensic fire debris analysis is an important part of fire investigation, and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) is the accepted standard for detection of ignitable liquids in fire debris. While GC-MS is the dominant technique, comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC×GC-MS) is gaining popularity. Despite the broad use of these techniques, their sensitivities are poorly characterized for petroleum-based ignitable liquids. Accordingly, we explored the limit of identification (LOI) using the protocols currently applied in accredited forensic labs for two 75% evaporated gasolines and a 25% evaporated diesel as both neat samples and in the presence of interfering pyrolysate typical of fire debris. GC-MSD (mass selective detector (MS)), GC-TOF (time-of-flight (MS)), and GC×GC-TOF were evaluated under matched conditions to determine the volume of ignitable liquid required on-column for correct identification by three experienced forensic examiners performing chromatographic interpretation in accordance with ASTM E1618-14. GC-MSD provided LOIs of ~0.6 pL on-column for both neat gasolines, and ~12.5 pL on-column for neat diesel. In the presence of pyrolysate, the gasoline LOIs increased to ~6.2 pL on-column, while diesel could not be correctly identified at the concentrations tested. For the neat dilutions, GC-TOF generally provided 2× better sensitivity over GC-MSD, while GC×GC-TOF generally resulted in 10× better sensitivity over GC-MSD. In the presence of pyrolysate, GC-TOF was generally equivalent to GC-MSD, while GC×GC-TOF continued to show 10× greater sensitivity relative to GC-MSD. Our findings demonstrate the superior sensitivity of GC×GC-TOF and provide an important approach for interlaboratory benchmarking of modern instrumental performance in fire debris analysis. View Full-Text
Keywords: forensics; trace evidence; fire debris; ignitable liquid; sensitivity; limit of identification; GC-MS; GC×GC-MS forensics; trace evidence; fire debris; ignitable liquid; sensitivity; limit of identification; GC-MS; GC×GC-MS
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Abel, R.J.; Zadora, G.; Sandercock, P.M.L.; Harynuk, J.J. Modern Instrumental Limits of Identification of Ignitable Liquids in Forensic Fire Debris Analysis. Separations 2018, 5, 58.

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  • Externally hosted supplementary file 1
    Link: https://tinyurl.com/ybxvmd4a
    Description: Chromatograms, and other supporting information - note this is a large file (~650MB) to maintain high quality of chromatograms.
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