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Forensic Applications of Isotope-Ratio Mass Spectrometry

The isotopic profile of a material refers to the ratios of the stable isotopes of elements contained within, such as 2H/1H, 13C/12C, and 18O/16O. Biological, chemical, and physical processes cause variations in the ratios of stable isotopes; analysis of a material for its distinctive isotopic signature can thus be used to reveal information about its history. Isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) is a technique used to measure the relative abundance of isotopes in materials. Forensic investigators have used IRMS to measure a variety of materials, such as drugs, explosives, food, and human remains. In a recent web seminar, Lesley Chesson, the president of IsoForensics, Inc., explained how IRMS works and discussed the use of IRMS in forensic science, illustrating her discussion with several case examples.