A comparison of the use of refractive index (RI) and laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) for the provenance establishment of glass bottles

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The use of laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) has been compared with the traditional method of refractive index (RI) measurement for the establishment of the provenance of glass bottles. Using the RI method alone, it is not possible to discriminate between certain glass bottles produced up to 18 days apart from a single manufacturing plant. Furthermore, variations in RI within a single bottle can be large enough to invalidate co-provenance establishment using this technique alone. Determination of the trace elemental composition of bottles collected over a 1-month period confirmed that minimal variation of trace metal distribution occurred within individual bottles made during this period. Therefore, the trace element composition of any fragment of glass from a broken bottle may be considered representative of the elemental composition of the entire bottle. In addition, statistical comparison of the distribution of approximately 38 of the 56 analytes that were determined established that it was possible to discriminate between two glass bottles manufactured in the same plant two hours apart. Using this methodology it has been possible to develop an analytical protocol to significantly improve the accurate comparison and provenance establishment of forensic glass evidence.

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