This award is supported by the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) and the Chemistry Research Instrumentation (CRIF) Programs. Professor Brooke Kammrath from the University of New Haven and colleague Virginia Maxwell have acquired a laser induced breakdown spectrometer (LIBS) system. This instrument is used to identify the chemical elements in a range of samples. It employs a laser to ablate (vaporize) material from the sample of interest. The plasma produced by the laser contains excited atoms which emit their characteristic light. The emitted light is then detected by a spectrometer. The acquired spectrum can identify and quantify the elemental composition of the sample. The LIBS system is used for elemental analysis of a variety of samples of interest to forensics, chemistry, geology, biology and engineering. Several of the projects are directed at forensic science. Here the goal is to evaluate whether the technique can be established as a reliable tool. This provides a significant societal effect. Undergraduate and master degree students receive training to use the LIBS system in their research projects. This training in chemical analysis helps prepare them for future careers and advanced degrees.
The proposal is aimed at enhancing research and education at all levels It especially aids in the identification and characterization of microscopic samples of forensic interest. Other projects test the reliability of the technique in soil analysis, evaluating drug delivery vehicles in living cells, carrying out paint analysis and in geological applications. The spectrometer is also used for the development of new methods to analyze forensic evidence and for the analyses of bullet metals and gunshot residue. The spectrometer also serves researchers in the profiling of illicit drugs and their production materials and those analyzing paints, explosives, inks and toners.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.