NIST standard helps ID fuels used in arson

March 25, 2004

Faced with a growing number of ignitable chemicals with similar characteristics, arson investigators have their hands full trying to tell residues of insecticide, for example, from those of gasoline. But identifying fuels used to set fires will be easier now, thanks to some help from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Law enforcement agencies, insurance fraud investigators and forensic services are expected to use Standard Reference Material (SRM) 2285, NIST's first standard intended to aid arson investigations. The new SRM is a liquid containing 15 compounds from common accelerants in various certified concentrations. It will be used to calibrate instruments that help analysts classify fire scene residues into six categories of fuels.

The hydrocarbon compounds are separated and identified based on how long it takes for them to pass through an instrument called a gas chromatograph. The retention time depends partly on a compound's volatility, or how fast it changes from liquid to vapor, and partly on experimental conditions such as temperature. Users analyze the SRM, analyze the residue from the crime scene and compare the retention time patterns to help identify the components used at the fire.

The instruments' readouts indicate both the presence and concentration of the various components; these patterns may indicate a particular fuel source. In helping investigators accurately identify the components and thus the original fuel used to set a fire, the SRM may help improve the 2 percent national conviction rate for arson cases. SRM 2285 also may be useful in the petroleum industry and environmental science.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Related Fire Articles from Brightsurf:

In the line of fire
People are starting almost all the wildfires that threaten US homes, according to an innovative new analysis combining housing and wildfire data.

The Venus 'ring of fire'
ETH researchers used computer simulations to classify the current activity of corona structures on the surface of Venus.

Fire from the sky
Before the Taqba Dam impounded the Euphrates River in northern Syria in the 1970s, an archaeological site named Abu Hureyra bore witness to the moment ancient nomadic people first settled down and started cultivating crops.

Tunnel fire safety
With only minutes to respond, fire education really counts.

Native approaches to fire management
In collaboration with tribes in Northern California, researchers examined traditional fire management practices and found that these approaches, if expanded, could strengthen cultures and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires in Northern California.

New concept for novel fire extinguisher in space
A research team at Toyohashi University of Technology has developed a new concept of fire extinguishing, named Vacuum Extinguish Method.

Watching brain cells fire
Brain scientists have plenty of ways to track the activity of individual neurons in the brain, but they're all invasive.

Neurons that fire together, don't always wire together
As the adage goes 'neurons that fire together, wire together,' but a new paper published today in Neuron demonstrates that, in addition to response similarity, projection target also constrains local connectivity.

A world on fire
The world is on fire. Or so it appears in this image from NASA's Worldview.

Can we have a fire in a highly vacuumed environment?
Toyohashi University of Technology researchers have discovered that non-flaming combustion (smoldering) of a porous specimen can sustain, even under nearly 1 percent of atmospheric pressure.

Read More: Fire News and Fire Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to