The use of portable XRF as a forensic geoscience non-destructive trace evidence tool for environmental and criminal investigations

J. K. Pringle, A.J. Jeffery, A. Ruffell, I.G. Stimpson, Duncan Pirrie, E. Bergslien, C. Madden, I. Oliver, K.D. Wisniewski, J.P. Cassella, N. Lamont, S. Gormley, J. Partridge

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Hand-held, portable X-Ray fluorescence instruments (pXRF) provide a means of rapid, in-situ chemical characterisation that has considerable application as a rapid trace evidence characterisation tool in forensic geoscience. This study presents both a control test study which demonstrates optimisation of the data collection process, alongside a range of individual forensic case studies,
including heavy metal contamination, conflict archaeology, forensic soil characterisation, and verification of human remains, which together validate the technique and provide some comparison between field-based and laboratory-based pXRF applications. Results highlight the time-efficiency and cost-effectiveness of in-situ, field-based pXRF analyses for material characterisation when compared with other trace evidence methods. Analytical precision of various analytes during in-situ analysis was sufficient to demonstrate considerable application of field-based pXRF as a tool for rapid
identification of specific areas of interest to be further investigated. Laboratory-based pXRF analyses yielded greater accuracy which could provide an efficient compromise between field-based pXRF and traditional laboratory-based analytical techniques (e.g. WD-XRF, ICP-MS). Further studies should collect more advanced datasets in more diverse locations to further validate the techniques capability to rapidly conduct geochemical surveys in a range of environments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number111175
Number of pages13
JournalForensic Science International
Early online date4 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • Forensic science
  • Trace evidence
  • Geoscience
  • PXRF
  • Soils
  • Contamination
  • cremated remains
  • WW1
  • Graveyards
  • Archaeology


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