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Locating, Identifying, and Comparing Sub-visible Paint Particles

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 64 Issue: 6 Dated: November 2019 Pages: 1851-1858
Date Published
November 2019
8 pages
Forensic paint comparisons are generally conducted on samples that may be small relative to their source, but are still visible to the unaided eye and are thus located and analyzed without great difficulty; however, the current study demonstrates that a more detailed examination of candidate transfer surfaces can capture materials (questioned samples), even when such traces are invisible to the unaided eye.

The study notes that although certain analytical details (such as layer sequence or a pure FTIR spectrum) may not be obtainable from such traces due to their size and condition, a detailed analysis of the sample characteristics that are analytically accessible may still provide sufficient analytical data to arrive at a probative result. This approach was applied to a suspected paint transfer case that involved particles of paint as small as 40 micrometers. Using a combination of stereomicroscopy, polarized light microscopy, infrared microspectroscopy, Raman microspectroscopy, and SEM/EDS, all performed on a single, subsample of the original minute particle, it was possible to demonstrate evidence of a two-way transfer between the suspected sources. Furthermore, the transferred paint particle in one direction could be classified as automotive in nature based on a combination of polymer composition, microscopic texture, and pigment package (which included three specifically identified pigments). This work demonstrates (i) the potential for improving detection limits when searching for a questioned sample, (ii) the potential benefits of higher resolution analyses on samples that would be traditionally labeled as sample-size limited, and (iii) the value of case-specific interpretation over standardized, one-size fits all report templates. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: November 1, 2019