Standard Active Last Updated: Aug 29, 2023 Track Document
ASTM E3295-23

Standard Guide for Using Micro X-Ray Fluorescence (μ-XRF) in Forensic Polymer Examinations

Standard Guide for Using Micro X-Ray Fluorescence (μ-XRF) in Forensic Polymer Examinations E3295-23 ASTM|E3295-23|en-US Standard Guide for Using Micro X-Ray Fluorescence (μ-XRF) in Forensic Polymer Examinations Standard new BOS Vol. 14.02 Committee E30
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Significance and Use

4.1 µ-XRF is a nondestructive qualitative elemental analysis technique used for polymers. It involves excitation of a sample by an X-ray source resulting in the emission of characteristic X-rays detected using an energy dispersive X-ray detector. Results are displayed simultaneously as a spectrum of intensity as a function of energy for elements of atomic number 11 or greater.

4.2 µ-XRF enables the determination of the elemental composition of a specimen and can be utilized for comparisons of components of polymeric materials (for example, tape backings, tape adhesives, paint layers).

4.3 Comparisons of X-ray spectra acquired from polymer samples are conducted for source discrimination or potential association.

4.4 Quantitative processes for µ-XRF analysis are available but are not used for polymer analyses because of the lack of prepared polymer standard reference samples.

4.5 In general, information available from a heterogeneous specimen diminishes as its size is reduced or its condition degrades, which lessens its likelihood of being representative of the source material.

4.6 µ-XRF data collected from polymers is limited to specific information (for example, elements detected, relative elemental abundance); additional analytical procedures are required to further characterize and identify the chemical composition of the polymer sample.

4.7 Limitations of µ-XRF include the inability to detect some elements in trace concentrations, the inability to analyze individual particles, the potential interference related to the penetration depth of the beam relative to the sample thickness, the inability to resolve the peaks of some elements (for example, Ba Lα / Ti Kα), and the potential for discoloration of some materials due to exposure to radiation.


1.1 This guide covers recommended techniques and procedures intended for use by forensic laboratory personnel that perform µ-XRF analysis of polymer samples.

1.2 This guide describes various techniques and procedures used in the µ-XRF analysis of polymers that include sample handling and preparation, instrument operating conditions, and spectral data collection, evaluation and interpretation.

1.3 This guide describes the application of µ-XRF systems equipped with either mono- or poly- capillary optics and an energy dispersive X-ray detector (EDS).

1.4 This guide is intended to be applied within the scope of a broader analytical scheme (for example, Guide E1610, Guide E3260) for the forensic analysis of a polymer sample (1-6).2 A µ-XRF analysis can provide additional information regarding the potential relationships between the sources of polymeric materials.

1.5 The fundamental aspects of the composition and manufacture of polymeric materials or theory of X-ray fluorescence can be found in various texts (7-18).

1.6 This standard is intended for use by competent forensic science practitioners with the requisite formal education, discipline-specific training (see Practices E2917, E3233, E3234), and demonstrated proficiency to perform forensic casework.

1.7 Units—The values stated in SI units are to be regarded as standard. No other units of measurement are included in this standard.

1.8 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety, health, and environmental practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.

1.9 This international standard was developed in accordance with internationally recognized principles on standardization established in the Decision on Principles for the Development of International Standards, Guides and Recommendations issued by the World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee.

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Book of Standards Volume: 14.02
Developed by Subcommittee: E30.01
Pages: 6
DOI: 10.1520/E3295-23
ICS Code: 07.140