News Release icon Contact: Media Relations Office (518) 956-8150



UAlbany Chemists Offer Law Enforcement and Forensics New Crime Solving Tool

Method Analyzes Gunshot Residue, Pinpoints Weapon Caliber

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 18, 2012) -- University at Albany researchers have developed a method to determine the caliber and type of weapon used in a crime by analyzing gunshot residue (GSR). Using near-infrared (NIR) Raman microspectroscopy and advanced statistics, the new technique may play a pivotal role in law enforcement cases and forensic investigations. The research was highlighted in a recent issue of Analytical Chemistry.

Gunshot residue comprises particles from the parts of the ammunition and firearm that explode or reside near points of explosion including the primer, propellant, and tiny particles of the cartridge case and gun itself. Since residue can be recovered from several locations in the crime scene, it may be utilized for both physical and chemical evidence: GSR establishes that the shooting took place and a person participated in the shooting.

"If a crime is committed that involves a gun, we can examine the gunshot residue to help determine the size and type of ammunition used," said UAlbany professor of chemistry and lead researcher Igor Lednev. “Then through comparisons and elimination, it is quite likely to determine what kind of a gun was used in the crime."
pistol firing a bullet

UAlbany researchers analyze gunshot residue to determine the caliber and type of weapon used in a crime.

Lednev, a member of the White House Subcommittee on Forensic Science, explained, “In the absence of a weapon and discernible ammunition remainders at a crime scene, the ability to analyze and positively identify ammunition and firearms would have a significant impact on the efficiency of a criminal investigation.”

The research team combined GSR with Raman spectroscopy, in which laser light of a specific wavelength is shined on a sample, sending its molecules vibrating. Well-suited for forensic analysis, spectroscopy does not destroy evidence, requires limited sample preparation, and has a range of applications including the identification of explosives, paint, textile dyes, drugs, and bodily fluids.

Lednev concludes that more analysis is needed before CSI teams employ the method in a courtroom. One day, investigators might even be able to flip through a database of Raman spectra of different ammunitions to more quickly link that crime-scene residue to a specific kind of gun.

Read details about Lednev’s forensic expertise or explore UAlbany's Chemistry Department. For more UAlbany news, visit the News Center.

 

 

 

comments powered by Disqus

For more news, subscribe to UAlbany's RSS headline feeds

Educationally and culturally, the University at Albany-SUNY puts "The World Within Reach" for its 17,500 students. An internationally recognized research university with 50 undergraduate majors and 125 graduate degree programs, UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as public policy, nanotechnology and criminal justice. With a curriculum enhanced by 300 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers. For more information about this globally ranked University, visit http://www.albany.edu/. For UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts, visit www.albany.edu/news/experts.shtml.