Forensic Chemistry Laboratory

Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer

GCMS in laboratory

Students use this piece of equipment to analyze Fire Debris samples. The GCMS helps to identify ignitable liquids taken from possible arson sites and items damaged from fire. Also used for confirmation of drug samples after presumptive testing. Drug samples are confirmed by comparing questioned drug samples to known drug standards. The GCMS can be used with chemical derivatives for drug analysis; confirmatory tests for drugs which are thermally unstable.

GCMS is also used for impurity profiling of drug seizures from the community or clandestine labs. Impurity profiling compares a pure standard with the seized drug sample to find additional chemicals from the manufacturing process; this allows forensic chemists the ability to match specific samples from separate drug seizures to a common source. Students use this piece of equipment for research projects and during their summer internships with the Forensic Chemistry laboratory.

Our second unit, housed in the Fairfield Laboratoy, is used mostly for creating a searchable database of kerosene and gasoline samples. The database allows for the matching of specific spectra to questioned samples. This is part of an ongoing Chemometrics Research Project at the MUFSC.

Working HPLC in laboratory

High Performance Liquid Chromatograph

This instrument is used for processing samples which are thermally unstable, such as explosives. The HPLC is used because the instrument is not heated, processing at room temperature keeps the chemical compounds from breaking down while processing. Students have used the HPLC to analyze caffeine contents for common beverages and as part of research with Smokeless Powders.

Preparation Laboratory

Preparation area for chemical analysis

In the Preparation Laboratory students create standards for testing against their questioned samples. The Prep lab is also where students perform presumptive drug testing, such as color spot tests. Then they prepare the incoming samples by converting solids to liquids for drug analysis. Fire Debris samples are baked in an oven with a charcoal strip for about an hour which allows students to collect volatile components from the sample. In the fume hood students use a solvent to extract the volatile components for analysis on the GCMS. Stereomicroscopes are used to view trace materials for visual identification, such as fibers, paint chips, marijuana and explosives.

Working IR in the laboratory

Infrared Spectrometer

The IR is used to differentiate between cocaine HCL (which is commonly known as pure cocaine) and free base cocaine (which is commonly known as crack). By measuring how infrared light reacts with the molecules students can identify the differences of the two drug compounds. The IR microscope allows students to view infrared data on non salt crystal samples such as fibers, explosives, and paint chips.

Polarizing Light Microscope

Working Polarizing Light Microscope in the laboratory

Used for viewing synthetic and natural fibers, such as nylon and cross sections of wood. Can be used to view minerals and soil samples. The exterior shell of pollen can be examined and matched to other common pollens in a specific geographical area. The Pollen Project is part of an ongoing research project at the MUFSC.

Ultra Violet Visible Spectrometer

The Ultra Violet Visible Spectrometer or UV/Vis used to determine the concentration of active compounds in drug samples which absorb UV light. This instrument is used for chemicals which are only UV reactive; other compounds would be tested using GCMS or HPLC.

Our Forensic Chemistry Laboratory physical address is:

  • Fairfield Professional Building
  • 1616 13th Avenue, Suite 3
  • Huntington, WV 25701

Before visiting our Forensic Chemistry Laboratory please contact a member of our staff to set an appointment. We look forward to showing you our chemistry facilities.

To get directions to our Forensic Chemistry Laboratory do one of the following: