Characterization of Printing Inks Using DART-Q-TOF-MS and Attenuated Total Reflectance (ATR) FTIR

J Forensic Sci. 2016 May;61(3):706-14. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.13107. Epub 2016 Apr 18.


The rise in improved and widely accessible printing technology has resulted in an interest to develop rapid and minimally destructive chemical analytical techniques that can characterize printing inks for forensic document analysis. Chemical characterization of printing inks allows for both discrimination of inks originating from different sources and the association of inks originating from the same source. Direct analysis in real-time mass spectrometry (DART-MS) and attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR) were used in tandem to analyze four different classes of printing inks: inkjets, toners, offset, and intaglio. A total of 319 samples or ~ 80 samples from each class were analyzed directly on a paper substrate using the two methods. DART-MS was found to characterize the semi-volatile polymeric vehicle components, while ATR-FTIR provided chemical information associated with the bulk components of these inks. Complimentary data results in improved discrimination when both techniques are used in succession resulting in >96% discrimination for all toners, 95% for all inkjets, >92% for all offset, and >54% for all intaglio inks.

Keywords: ATR-FTIR; DART-Q-TOF; forensic science; printing ink analysis; questioned document examination.