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Sampling and recovery of ignitable liquid residues (ILRs) from fire debris using capillary microextraction of volatiles (CMV) for on-site analysis

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 68 Issue: 2 Dated: 30 January 2023 Pages: 629-637
Date Published
January 2023
9 pages

A new, fast, and ultra-sensitive headspace sampling method using the Capillary Microextraction of Volatiles (CMV) device is demonstrated for the analysis of ignitable liquid residues (ILRs) in fire debris.


This headspace sampling method involves the use of a heated can (60°C) to aid in the recovery of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from medium and heavy petroleum distillates. The authors’ group has previously reported the utility of CMV to extract gasoline at ambient temperature in less than 5 min in the field. This work evaluates the recovery and analysis of low mass loadings (tens of ng) of VOCs from charcoal lighter fluid, kerosene, and diesel fuel. Nonane, decane, undecane, tridecane, tetradecane, and pentadecane were selected for evaluation of recovery to represent these ILR classes. The face-down heated can headspace sampling technique was compared to the previously reported, non-heated, paper cup headspace sampling technique. Mass recovery improvements of 50%–200% for five of the six target compounds in diesel fuel were achieved compared to the non-heated sampling method. The average relative standard deviation (reported as % RSD) between the replicate trials decreased from an average of 28% to 6% when using the heated can method. Ignitable liquids were spiked onto burned debris in a live burn exercise and sampled using the heated can and paper cup headspace sampling techniques. The heated sampling technique reported here, for the first time, demonstrates an effective extraction method that when coupled to a portable GC–MS instrument allows for a sampling and analysis protocol in the field in less than 30 min. (Published abstract provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2023