Near-infrared spectroscopic studies of human scalp hair in a forensic context

Brandes, Sarina (2009) Near-infrared spectroscopic studies of human scalp hair in a forensic context. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

Human hair is a relatively inert biopolymer and can survive through natural disasters. It is also found as trace evidence at crime scenes. Previous studies by FTIRMicrospectroscopy and – Attenuated Total Reflectance (ATR) successfully showed that hairs can be matched and discriminated on the basis of gender, race and hair treatment, when interpreted by chemometrics. However, these spectroscopic techniques are difficult to operate at- or on-field. On the other hand, some near infrared spectroscopic (NIRS) instruments equipped with an optical probe, are portable and thus, facilitate the on- or at –field measurements for potential application directly at a crime or disaster scene. This thesis is focused on bulk hair samples, which are free of their roots, and thus, independent of potential DNA contribution for identification. It explores the building of a profile of an individual with the use of the NIRS technique on the basis of information on gender, race and treated hair, i.e. variables which can match and discriminate individuals. The complex spectra collected may be compared and interpreted with the use of chemometrics. These methods can then be used as protocol for further investigations. Water is a common substance present at forensic scenes e.g. at home in a bath, in the swimming pool; it is also common outdoors in the sea, river, dam, puddles and especially during DVI incidents at the seashore after a tsunami. For this reason, the matching and discrimination of bulk hair samples after the water immersion treatment was also explored. Through this research, it was found that Near Infrared Spectroscopy, with the use of an optical probe, has successfully matched and discriminated bulk hair samples to build a profile for the possible application to a crime or disaster scene. Through the interpretation of Chemometrics, such characteristics included Gender and Race. A novel approach was to measure the spectra not only in the usual NIR range (4000 – 7500 cm-1) but also in the Visible NIR (7500 – 12800 cm-1). This proved to be particularly useful in exploring the discrimination of differently coloured hair, e.g. naturally coloured, bleached or dyed. The NIR region is sensitive to molecular vibrations of the hair fibre structure as well as that of the dyes and damage from bleaching. But the Visible NIR region preferentially responds to the natural colourants, the melanin, which involves electronic transitions. This approach was shown to provide improved discrimination between dyed and untreated hair. This thesis is an extensive study of the application of NIRS with the aid of chemometrics, for matching and discrimination of bulk human scalp hair. The work not only indicates the strong potential of this technique in this field but also breaks new ground with the exploration of the use of the NIR and Visible NIR ranges for spectral sampling. It also develops methods for measuring spectra from hair which has been immersed in different water media (sea, river and dam)

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ID Code: 30399
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Kokot, Serge & Rintoul, Llewellyn
Keywords: near-infrared spectroscopy, human hair, forensic science
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 11 Feb 2010 05:21
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:55

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