Microfluidic Device for Dyes from Small Fiber Samples for Forensics


dowForensic science employs scientific instruments and techniques that can assist in answering the key questions of when and how a crime was committed and who was involved. The goal of this interdisciplinary research project is to create a micro-fluidic front end for a mass spectrometer (MS) that will demonstrate significant improvements in the identification of dyes in a fiber. To identify fiber dyes, they must be extracted, dried, dissolved in an appropriate solution, ionized and fed into a MS where their composition is measured. Currently this process is a series of independent steps. The result of this project will be an integrated system permitting minute quantities of fiber to be analyzed. This quantity is orders of magnitude smaller than currently possible and requires a collaborative effort between engineering, chemistry and textiles faculty and local forensic scientists. Streamlining the extraction process will improve fiber analysis while minimizing the risk of sample loss and contamination. The particular emphasis for this research initiative led by NC State Professor Tom Dow is to help identify the source of fibers found at a crime scene. While a micro-fluidic device specifically engineered for fiber extraction does not exist, this research effort will develop a low-volume fluidic extraction front end for a mass spectrometer that can automatically provide dye molecules in solution from a small fiber sample for analysis. Due to the quantity of textile materials in the environment, there is a high probability of fiber transfer during the commission of a crime. Consequently, identification of fiber samples can play a critical role in criminal investigations. This research effort is part of the larger NC Forensic Sciences effort and is being leveraged with funds from the NC State Research and Innovation Seed Fund program.