Northumbria University Centre for Forensic Science

An investigation into the use of calculating the first derivative of absorbance spectras as a tool for forensic fibre analysis

K. Wiggins, R. Palmer, W. Hutchinson & P. Drummond. Science & Justice, 47(1), pp.9-18. (2007)


A range of fibre samples was measured using J&M MSP400 and J&M MSP800 microspectrophotometers across the visible and UV/visible wavelength ranges respectively. The first derivative of the absorbance spectra was then calculated and studied. When the absorbance spectra produced for some samples were broad and featureless, the first derivative spectra provided more points of comparison that facilitated discrimination. For many of the samples, calculating the first derivative did not result in any additional discrimination due to the high number of points of comparison present in the absorbance spectra. However, for the samples that exhibited a high level of intra-sample colour variation (e.g. through uneven dye uptake common in cotton and wool, etc.), which was evident in the absorbance spectra, the associated first derivative spectra highlighted this variation between the fibres and could potentially have resulted in false exclusions. The results show that whilst calculating first derivative can be a useful aid in the comparison of spectra, a high degree of caution is required when applying this method to fibres which exhibit a large intra-sample variation in colour.

Tags: , Ray Palmer