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Optical Characterization of Some Modern “Eco-Friendly” Fibers

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Fibers that are termed “eco-friendly” or “biodegradable” by manufacturers are increasingly being used in textile products such as apparel and carpeting to appeal to the ever more environmentally aware public. As such, these modern fibers are expected to begin showing up more often in forensic casework, and it is important that the forensic examiner recognize them. This study employed polarized light microscopy (PLM) and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) microspectroscopy to characterize selected fibers of azlon, polylactic acid (PLA), cellulose composites of alginate or chitin, and bamboo (viscose rayon). Fiber cross-sections, refractive indices, melting points, solubilities, and FTIR measurements were conducted. Results indicate that the azlons and PLA fibers are easily distinguishable from other textile fibers by their optical and chemical properties. The cellulose composites show only small differences in comparison with other cellulose-based fibers, while bamboo viscose rayon is indistinguishable from normal viscose rayon.
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Keywords: Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy; alginate; azlon; bamboo rayon; chitin; criminalistics; fiber identification; forensic science; polarized light microscopy; polylactic acid

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: McCrone Research Institute, 2820 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

Publication date: 2010-07-01

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