Volume 20, Issue 3 (July 1975)
Analysis of Paraffin Wax in Fire Remains
Candles are sometimes used for arson because of fairly predictable delay in ignition of other combustibles as the candle burns down. Also, they are easily consumed in the resulting fire. It has been known that residues of paraffin often survive a fire and can be detected by chemical or physical means. Extraction procedures have usually been used to remove paraffin residues from fire remains. The isolated paraffin could then be characterized by infrared spectrophotometry, melting point, or X-ray pattern . There are a number of other analytical procedures that have been used for paraffin wax, although not necessarily with regard to arson investigation. These include differential scanning calorimetry , differential thermal analysis , mass spectrometry , liquid-phase chromatography , and vapor-phase chromatography starting with Ogilvie et al . Some of the methods are useful for distinguishing among samples of known waxes but do not give a detailed fingerprint of composition. Vapor-phase chromatography combines simplicity with the best yield of information on wax composition.