Chemists Apply a Laser Focus on Solving Crimes

University at Albany chemist Igor Lednev

University at Albany chemist Igor Lednev is applying his laser spectroscopy expertise to the development of new scientific methods for solving crimes.

These crime scene methods include the analysis of gunshot residue to help determine the caliber and type of weapon and an easy-to-use approach for identifying body fluids. Both methods make use of laser spectroscopy, which focuses a laser beam on a sample, yielding a characteristic light emission that can be analyzed by a spectrometer. Well-suited for forensic analysis, spectroscopy does not destroy evidence and requires limited sample preparation.

In the absence of a weapon or discernible gun ammunition remainders at a crime scene, gunshot residue can become critical evidence. Such residue comprises particles from the parts of the ammunition and firearm that explode or reside near points of explosion including the primer, propellant, and tinyparticles of the cartridge case and gun itself.

Lednev’s team uses a type of laser spectroscopy, near-infrared Raman microspectroscopy, and advanced statistics to analyze gunshot residue to determine the type of ammunition used, and then, through comparisons and elimination, what kind of a gun was used in the crime.

With his work on gunshot residue analysis and identification of body fluids at crime scenes, Lednev is aiming to optimize methods for use in real-life crime investigations.