CSI - Leather Crime Scenes Investigated

22 March 2007




In the television programmes we see talented and, of course, beautiful people use clever and sophisticated technology such as GCMS, FTIR and AA, to process crime scene evidence such as powders, dirt, fluids and materials. We sit and marvel as Gill Grissom processes what appear to be insignificant or even microscopic trace elements, identifying and tracing them to their origin and ultimately to the perpetrator of the crime. At BLC Leather Technology Centre Ltd experts use similar methods in their day to day operations to track down and identify the cause of leather problems and defects. BLC routinely use similar equipment to that featured in the hit TV show. With this level of equipment and in-house expertise BLC is a premium supplier of solutions for leather processing and leather product problems. Here we list just some of the analytical equipment used to identify and solve persistent or difficult problems: FTIR - Fourier Transform Infrared can identify and profile organic materials and is often used to analyse finishes and contaminants such as spue, surface contamination, waxes and cleaning agents that may have been applied to leathers and subsequently affected performance. SEM - Scanning Electron Microscopy is routinely used to get high magnification images of defects on the leather surface, look at fibre bundles in cross section and, with X-ray microanalysis, measure chemical penetration within the matrix. Using this equipment a whole range of tanning processes can be measured and assessed, such as the efficiency of the opening up, causes of looseness, assessment of heat damage etc. Coupled with the SEM is a cryogenic facility, which enables the analysis of wet samples through a freezing process and an x-ray micro-analysis function, allowing rapid identification of elements that form the basis of stains, spots or run marks etc. TLC - Thin Layer Chromatography can be used to identify and characterise dyestuffs, lipids and other contaminants. Examples are in the comparisons of dyestuffs or the detailed analysis of spue. GCMS - Gas Chromatography Mass Spectroscopy with head-space is used for the separation and identification of trace elements that are resolved in the gaseous phase and can be used to measure contaminants such as pesticides and fungicides. The head-space can be used to assess volatile organic compounds, to profile smells and identify the cause of pungent or toxic odours. Couple this with an electronic nose, and an odour fingerprint for different materials can be built. HPLC - High Pressure Liquid Chromatography is used to measure trace organic molecules such as formaldehyde and aromatic amines that can be resolved in a liquid phase rather than gaseous. ICP-OES Inductively Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectrometry is used to measure the presence of metallic elements and contaminants in leather and metallic components down to sub ppm levels. People These pieces of equipment are just a few of the tools available to BLC but they are of little value without the skills to operate them and the knowledge to interpret the results. The BLC problem solving team is made up of leading scientists, coupled with experienced and practical leather technologists, with the added benefit of access to over 85 years worth of research, development and industrial reference material contained within their information centre. Once the BLC team has all the appropriate evidence and background about the problem and the relevant samples, then the cause can be determined and practical targeted solutions provided. Although many of these problems are based on complex interactions and the application of the techniques described is time consuming, the majority of the problems can be identified, solutions determined and the report prepared and delivered within 5-10 working days. Contact BLC's world renowned leather problem-solving experts to uncover the facts about raw material defects, processing issues, manufacturing problems, or simply customer complaints and claims. For further information contact Adam Hughes on [email protected]  or +44 (0) 1604 679936      



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