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Liquid to Aid in Arson Investigations

April 02, 2004  | 

A new liquid could help arson investigators distinguish residue of fuels used to set fires from insecticide residue and other similar substances.

Standard Reference Material (SRM) 2285 is a liquid containing 15 compounds from common accelerants in various certified concentrations. SRM 2285, developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will be used to calibrate instruments that help analysts classify residues found at the scene of a fire into six categories of fuels.

The hydrocarbon compounds are separated and identified based on how long it takes for them to pass through an instrument called a gas chromatograph. Users analyze the SRM, analyze the residue from the crime scene, and compare the results from the chromatograph to help identify the components used to set a fire.

In helping investigators accurately identify the components and thus the original fuel used to set a fire, the SRM may help improve the 2 percent national conviction rate for arson cases.

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