The relationship between cross-sectional shapes and FTIR profiles in synthetic wig fibers and their discriminating abilities - An evidential value perspective

Forensic Sci Int. 2018 Feb;283:94-102. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2017.12.015. Epub 2017 Dec 15.


Wig fragments or fibers may occasionally be recognized as potential physical evidence during criminal investigations. While analytical methods traditionally adopted for the examination of textile fibers are utilized for the characterizations and comparisons of wig specimens, it is essential to understand in deeper detail the valuable contribution of features of these non-routine evidentiary materials as well as the relationship of the gathered analytical data. This study explores the dependence between the microscopic features of cross-sectional shapes and the polymer type gathered by Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. The discriminating power of the two methods of cross-sectioning and FTIR spectroscopy was also investigated. Forty-one synthetic wigs varying in both quality and price were collected: twenty-three brown, twelve blondes and six black samples. The collected samples were observed using light microscopy methods (bright field illumination and polarized light), before obtaining cross-sections using the Joliff method and analyze them using FTIR spectroscopy. The forty-one samples were divided into ten groups based on one or more of the ten types of cross-sectional shapes that were observed. The majority of encountered cross-sectional shapes were defined as horseshoe, dog bone and lobular. Infrared spectroscopy confirmed modacrylic to be the most prevalent fiber type. Blends of modacrylic and polyvinyl chloride fibers were also observed as well as polypropylene wig samples. The Goodman and Kruskal lambda statistical test was used and showed that the cross-sectional shape and infrared profile were related. From an evidentiary value perspective, this finding has implications when addressing questions about a common source between questioned wig specimens and a wig reference sample.

Keywords: FTIR spectroscopy; Fibers; Microscopy; Trace evidence; Wigs.