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Chemical Fingerprinting of Adhesive Tapes by GCMS Detection of Petroleum Hydrocarbon Products

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Pressure-sensitive adhesive tapes often represent key evidence of crimes such as assault, rape or homicide; thus, the development of analytical techniques able to contribute to a detailed characterization of these materials is of forensic importance. The gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS) analysis of the solvent extractable fractions of a suite of electrical and gaffer adhesive tapes spanning a range of colors and manufacturers identified a number of petroleum-derived hydrocarbons. Molecular and isotopic analyses of hydrocarbon constituents of complex materials have found wide analytical utility including the forensic investigation of oil spills and arson. Here, we investigate the utility of these techniques for characterizing the hydrocarbon composition of pressure-sensitive adhesive tapes for forensic correlation purposes. Subtle distinction of tape samples was evident in the GCMS distribution of several hydrocarbon groups including alkyl-naphthalenes, hopane and sterane biomarkers. Linear discriminant analysis of the abundances of these products provided high level differentiation of tape manufacturer. The distinction of different adhesive tape samples was further extended by measurement of their stable carbon isotopic values. The molecular and isotopic differences of the petroleum content of tapes are consistent with the use of different petroleum materials used in the manufacturing process and demonstrate the benefits of the combined use of complementary oil hydrocarbon characterization approaches. This study reveals the forensic potential of using established petroleum characterization methods for characterizing materials with a petroleum-derived hydrocarbon element.
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Keywords: adhesive tapes; biomarkers; chemical fingerprinting; forensic science; gas chromatography mass spectrometry; linear discriminant analysis; petroleum hydrocarbons; stable isotopes

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Stable Isotope and Molecular Biogeochemistry Group, The Institute for Geoscience Research, Department of Applied Chemistry, Curtin University of Technology, GPO Box U1987, Perth WA 6845, Australia. 2: Department of Chemistry (M313), University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley WA 6009, Australia.

Publication date: September 1, 2008

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