Discrimination of Ignitable Liquid Residues in Burned Petroleum-Derived Substrates by Using HS-MS eNose and Chemometrics
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DepartmentQuímica Analítica; Química Física
SourceSensors 2021, 21(3), 801
Interpretation of data from fire debris is considered as one of the most challenging steps in fire investigation. Forensic analysts are tasked to identify the presence or absence of ignitable liquid residues (ILRs) which may indicate whether a fire was started deliberately. So far, data analysis is subjected to human interpretation following the American Society for Testing and Materials' guidelines (ASTM E1618) based on gas chromatography-mass spectrometry data. However, different factors such as interfering pyrolysis compounds may hinder the interpretation of data. Some substrates release compounds that are in the range of common ignitable liquids, which interferes with accurate determination of ILRs. The aim of the current research is to investigate whether headspace-mass spectroscopy electronic nose (HS-MS eNose) combined with pattern recognition can be used to classify different ILRs from fire debris samples that contain a complex matrix (petroleum-based substrates or synthetic fibers carpet) that can strongly interfere with their identification. Six different substrates-four petroleum-derived substrates (vinyl, linoleum, polyester, and polyamide carpet), as well as two different materials for comparison purposes (cotton and cork) were used to investigate background interferences. Gasoline, diesel, ethanol, and charcoal starter with kerosene were used as ignitable liquids. In addition, fire debris samples were taken after different elapsed times. A total of 360 fire debris samples were analyzed. The obtained total ion mass spectrum was combined with unsupervised exploratory techniques such as hierarchical cluster analysis (HCA) as well as supervised linear discriminant analysis (LDA). The results from HCA show a strong tendency to group the samples according to the ILs and substrate used, and LDA allowed for a full identification and discrimination of every ILR regardless of the substrate.