Forensic identification of pharmaceuticals via portable X-ray fluorescence and diffuse reflectance spectroscopy

Sarah Shutic, Somsubhra Chakraborty, Bin Li, David C. Weindorf, Kathy Sperry, Dominick Casadonte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The importance of unknown substance identification in forensic science is vital to implementation or exclusion of criminal charges against an offender. While traditional laboratory measures include the use of gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy, an alternate method has been proposed to efficiently perform presumptive analyses of unknown substances at a crime scene or at airport security points. The use of portable X-ray fluorescence (PXRF) and visible near infrared diffuse reflectance spectroscopy (DRS) to determine elemental composition was applied to pharmaceutical medications (n = 83), which were then categorized into 21 classifications based on their active ingredients. Each pharmaceutical was processed by standard laboratory procedures and scanned with both PXRF and DRS. Lastly, the datasets obtained were compared using multivariate statistical analyses. The aforementioned devices indicate that differentiation of unknown substances is clearly demonstrated among the samples with 73.49% DRS classification accuracy. Thus, the approach shows promise for future development as a rapid analytical technique for unknown pharmaceutical substances and/or illicit narcotics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-32
Number of pages11
JournalForensic Science International
StatePublished - Oct 2017


  • Forensic analysis
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Proximal sensing
  • Spectroscopy


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