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J Forensic Sci. 2013 Jan;58(1):40-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2012.02221.x. Epub 2012 Jul 16.

Analyzing forensic evidence based on density with magnetic levitation.

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Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University, 12 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


This paper describes a method for determining the density of contact trace objects with magnetic levitation (MagLev). MagLev measurements accurately determine the density (± 0.0002 g/cm(3) ) of a diamagnetic object and are compatible with objects that are nonuniform in shape and size. The MagLev device (composed of two permanent magnets with like poles facing) and the method described provide a means of accurately determining the density of trace objects. This method is inexpensive, rapid, and verifiable and provides numerical values--independent of the specific apparatus or analyst--that correspond to the absolute density of the sample that may be entered into a searchable database. We discuss the feasibility of MagLev as a possible means of characterizing forensic-related evidence and demonstrate the ability of MagLev to (i) determine the density of samples of glitter and gunpowder, (ii) separate glitter particles of different densities, and (iii) determine the density of a glitter sample that was removed from a complex sample matrix.

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