Volume 35, Issue 3 (May 1990)
Limitations of ZAF Correction Factors in the Determination of Calcium/Phosphorus Ratios: Important Forensic Science Considerations Relevant to the Analysis of Bone Fragments Using Scanning Electron Microscopy and Energy-Dispersive X-Ray Microanalysis
A series of calcium phosphate standards having calcium/phosphorus (Ca/P) molar ratios of 0.50, 1.00, 1.34, 1.50, and 1.67, respectively, was prepared for bulk specimen analysis using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy-dispersive X-ray microanalysis (EDXA). The standards were mounted on carbon planchettes as either pure crystals or crystals embedded in epoxy resin. Ten different samples of each embedded and non-embedded standard were analyzed in a JEOL 100 CX electron microscope interfaced with a Kevex 8000 EDXA system using a lithium-drifted silicon detector and a multichannel analyzer. The Ca/P ratios were determined by calculating both net peak intensities without matrix corrections and atomic k-ratios using the MAGIC V computer program with ZAF correction factors for quantitative analysis. There was such extensive absorption of phosphorus X-rays in standards embedded in an epoxy matrix that the observed Ca/P ratios were statistically compatible with four different standards ranging in theoretical Ca/P ratios from 1.0 to 1.67. Although the non-embedded crystals showed a greater separation in the Ca/P ratios, both methods of preparation produced serious flaws in analysis. Direct application of the discovery of this caveat to the identification of suspected bone fragments for forensic science purposes is discussed.