A new laser-powered chemical analysis technique is so sensitive that it can take dozens of samples from a single strand of hair, distinguishing between the chemical signatures of each.
“With a single hair, we’ve shown you can take carbon isotope measurements over time instead of just chopping up the sample and averaging everything,” geochemist Jim Moran of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, whose team describe the technique April 12 in Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry.
Forensic scientists should find the technique useful, Moran said. “The carbon you eat goes into your hair, so hair is a record of carbon ratios. If you’ve been traveling, I could guess which countries you’ve been to or what you ate.”
An ultraviolet laser blasts a 50-micron-wide hole in a strand of hair without burning it. The hair particles are fine enough to ionize for mass spectrometry analysis, making the technology a valuable new tool for forensic investigations.
Read more info at Wired Science.