The researchers at the Midwest Forensics Resource Center -- part of the Department of Energy's Ames National Laboratory at Iowa State University -- will use mass spectrometry and a sampling technique called Direct Analysis in Real Time, or DART, to determine the chemical makeup of an ink more quickly and in greater detail than ever before.
"The great thing about the DART system is that it can sample the ink straight off the paper," said Robert Jones, an associate chemist at the Ames Lab. "You don't have to extract a sample first. Before DART, we had to cut a little bit of sample out and dissolve it in solvent for analysis. So, now we can look at the document without visibly altering it ... we don't destroy the evidence."
The library will use the mass spectra of the more than 8,000 inks collected by the U.S. Secret Service. Software will be created to store and access the library.
The Midwest Forensics Resource Center provides research and support services to crime laboratories and forensic scientists.