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Forensic Analysis of Poly(ethylene terephthalate) Fibers by Infrared Spectroscopy

Volume 58, Number 11 (Nov. 2004) Page 1272-1276

Causin, Valerio; Marega, Carla; Guzzini, Giuseppe; Marigo, Antonio

Poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) is one of the most commonly employed polymers in the textile industry. Its relevance as a source of evidence in the reconstruction of criminal cases is nevertheless very limited because the properties and morphologies of fibers from different producers tend to be very similar. By integrating bands, obtained on single fibers by infrared (IR) microscopy, associated with trans and gauche conformation and to the O-H end-groups of the molecules, a method is proposed that can discriminate otherwise similar PET fibers. The absorbancies at 1370 and at 846 cm-1 relative, respectively, to the gauche and trans conformation, were measured and ratioed. The end-group content was evaluated by ratioing the absorbancies of the signals at 3440 and at 874 cm-1. Relative standard deviation (R. S. D.) was 1% for repetitive analyses on the same location of the same single fiber. Precision was reduced if the ratios were measured along the length of a single fiber (R. S. D. = 3%) and even further when different fibers of the same sample were examined (R. S. D. varied from 2 to 10%). This simple method can greatly enhance the evidential value of PET fibers by subclassifying them, thus helping the Court to better assess their significance.