Improving signal-to-noise ratio for the forensic analysis of glass using micro X-ray fluorescence spectrometry

Xray Spectrom. 2020;49(6):10.1002/xrs.3179. doi: 10.1002/xrs.3179.


Micro X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (μXRF) is a standard technique used for the elemental analysis of glass fragments in forensic casework. The glass specimens encountered in casework are usually small (<1 mm), thin fragments that are partially transparent to the exciting X-ray beam. In addition to providing fluorescence from the small glass fragments, the primary beam X-rays can scatter within the chamber and provide noise in the measurements. To reduce scatter from the sample stage, the fragments are typically mounted on a thin plastic film and raised on an XRF sample cup (≤3 cm in height). However, at these heights, there may still be significant scatter from the sample stage, which adversely affects the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and the limit of detection (LOD). A plastic mount was designed and 3D-printed in-house to allow fragments to be raised as high as possible from the sample stage, thereby minimizing stage scatter. Most elements detected in glass showed an improvement in the SNR when using the 3D-printed mount for analyses. The greatest improvement (>30%) was observed for lower atomic number elements (Na and Mg) and higher atomic number elements (Sr and Zr). Another simple method to improve SNR is the use of primary beam filters; when using primary beam filters during analyses, elements with characteristic lines in the high-energy range (Rb, Sr, and Zr) showed the greatest improvement (>70%) in SNR. The impact of both strategies for the improvement of SNR is presented here.

Keywords: 3D-printed sample mount; forensic glass analysis; primary beam filters; signal-to-noise improvement.