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Sci Justice. 2018 Mar;58(2):138-144. doi: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.09.003. Epub 2017 Sep 25.

Soil forensics: How far can soil clay analysis distinguish between soil vestiges?

Author information

1
Instituto de Criminalística, Polícia Civil do Distrito Federal (IC/PCDF), Brasília (DF), 70.610-907, Brazil. Electronic address: rscorrea@unb.br.
2
Universidade Federal do Paraná (DSEA/UFPR), Curitiba (PR), 80.035-050, Brazil.
3
Instituto de Criminalística, Polícia Civil do Distrito Federal (IC/PCDF), Brasília (DF), 70.610-907, Brazil.
4
Universidade de Brasília (FCE/UnB), Brasília (DF), 72.220-900, Brazil.

Abstract

Soil traces are useful as forensic evidences because they frequently adhere to individuals and objects associated with crimes and can place or discard a suspect at/from a crime scene. Soil is a mixture of organic and inorganic components and among them soil clay contains signatures that make it reliable as forensic evidence. In this study, we hypothesized that soils can be forensically distinguished through the analysis of their clay fraction alone, and that samples of the same soil type can be consistently distinguished according to the distance they were collected from each other. To test these hypotheses 16 Oxisol samples were collected at distances of between 2m and 1.000m, and 16 Inceptisol samples were collected at distances of between 2m and 300m from each other. Clay fractions were extracted from soil samples and analyzed for hyperspectral color reflectance (HSI), X-ray diffraction crystallographic (XRD), and for contents of iron oxides, kaolinite and gibbsite. The dataset was submitted to multivariate analysis and results were from 65% to 100% effective to distinguish between samples from the two soil types. Both soil types could be consistently distinguished for forensic purposes according to the distance that samples were collected from each other: 1000m for Oxisol and 10m for Inceptisol. Clay color and XRD analysis were the most effective techniques to distinguish clay samples, and Inceptisol samples were more easily distinguished than Oxisol samples. Soil forensics seems a promising field for soil scientists as soil clay can be useful as forensic evidence by using routine analytical techniques from soil science.

KEYWORDS:

Clay fraction; Hyperspectral imaging (HIS); Soil forensics; X-ray diffraction (XRD)

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