A novel method for the forensic analysis of commercial petroleum products is presented. In this approach, the petroleum sample is extracted with nitromethane and then separated by capillary liquid chromatography with laser-induced fluorescence detection. The addition of selective fluorescence quenching agents allows the sample to be profiled by the distribution of alternant and nonalternant polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). In preliminary studies, the quenching behavior of nitromethane and diisopropylamine was established by using a standard mixture of sixteen PAHs ranging in size from two to six aromatic rings. Subsequent examination of new and used motor oil demonstrated that characteristic differences arise in the PAH content, which may allow for the unique identification of oil from a particular engine or vehicle. In addition, three brands of petrolatum jelly were successfully distinguished. Although a number of alternant alkylated and heterocyclic PAHs were found in all petrolatum samples, there were significant differences in the relative concentrations of alternant as well as nonalternant PAHs. This allowed for clear differentiation of the samples through qualitative inspection of their chromatograms as well as quantitative statistical correlation techniques.
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