Forensic Chemistry

Suzanne Bell  
Total pages
July 2013
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Forensic Chemistry
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Written specifically for the undergraduate course in Forensic Chemistry, Bell’s Forensic Chemistry provides a solid foundation for basic chemistry, introducing chemical concepts and practices from a forensic perspective (including multivariate statistics, quality assurance/quality control, and protocols used in working forensic laboratories). It offers students insight into the legal context in which forensic chemistry is conducted, the variety of types of samples and matrices, and extensive use of instrumentation they will likely encounter in the lab and future professions.


  • A comprehensive section on essential elements delves into the aspects of study unique to forensic chemistry, including: types of samples and how they are prepared; acid/base chemistry of drugs; solubility; preparations; presumptive testing, and a detailed discussion of microscopy, a fundamental tool of the forensic chemist.
  • Extensive coverage of drug analysis presents an overview of forensic pharmacology, including physical and biological evidence, toxicology, and aspects of drug analysis critical to reconstructing a crime scene.
  • Broad coverage of chemical analysis of physical evidence addresses the analysis of evidence related to combustion; polymers; paper and inks, and paints and coatings.
  • Extensive problem sets in each chapter include chapter-based questions, integrative queries that require further research, and “Food for Thought” questions drawn from the experience of practicing forensic chemists.
  • Applying the Science boxes are drawn from current literature and working forensic laboratories. These provide context for chapter material, linking coursework to current research and forensic casework.
  • Exhibits include contemporary and historical cases, developments, and information pertinent to the professional world are provided to add context to the topics throughout the text.

New to this Edition

  • NEW! N ew Applying the Science boxes, including Sampling and Method Uncertainty in Urine (Chapter 4) and You Are What You Eat (Chapter 6), provide the context for the material presented and integrate several aspects of forensic chemistry in one place.
  • NEW! New Exhibit boxes such as Tylenol and Toxicity (Chapter 9) and Trace and Transfer Evidence (Chapter 17) provide a link to the professional world.
  • NEW! T o reflect the new research and development recently made in Forensic chemistry, three new chapters have been added:
    • Reporting Defensible Uncertainty and Obtaining Representative Samples (Chapter 4) addresses recent interest in the forensic community on how to improve forensic science in the future.
    • Forensic Toxicology (Chapter 10): engages students in cutting-edge research relevant to the field.
    • Firearms and Associated Chemical Evidence (Chapter 13) provides critical discussion of extensively reworked and updated content on combustion chemistry in this revision.
  • NEW! Online Laboratory Manual is now available on the TheChemPlace (
    • The labs are designed to ensure that they can be performed with typical chemical instrumentation and reagents, including drugs and metabolites. The content is tied directly to specific sections of the text and includes example student results.
    • Emphasis on microscopy is decreased, with greater emphasis placed on forensic toxicology, metabolism, and drug analysis. Existing labs focusing on microscopy have been replaced with laboratories in the area of drug metabolism, solubility as a function of pH, and acid/base extractions.
    • Also included on the ChemPlace for this edition are Virtual Forensic Science Labs for topics including Forensic Glass Analysis, Drug Identification, and Arson Detection. These highly interactive exercises give students the virtual experience of working in forensics laboratory.
  • NEW! Several new sections have been added, including Metrology and Measurement (2.1), Absorption (9.4), and Forensic Analysis of Explosives (12.3).
  • Several new questions have been added throughout the text, with an emphasis on quantitative problems.
  • References have been updated and outdated sidebars have been removed and replaced with current information to reflect new developments in this field.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1- Introduction and Overview- Chemistry and the Law
1.1 What is Forensic Chemistry?
1.2 Precedent in Chemistry and the Law
1.3 Key Forensic and Legal Concepts
1.4 The Flow of a Forensic Analysis
1.5 The Forensic Mind-Set
1.6 Forensic Chemistry Today
1.7 Becoming and Being a Forensic Professional


Chapter 2- Foundations
    2.1 Metrology and Measurement
    2.2 Significant Figures, Rounding, and Uncertainty
    2.3 Fundamental Statistics
    2.4 Error, Accuracy, and Precision
    2.5 Hypothesis Testing

Chapter 3- Quality Assurance and Quality Control
    3.1 Quality Assurance and Quality Control
    3.2 Quality Control Procedures
    3.3 Quality Control and Calibration

Chapter 4- Reporting Defensible Uncertainty and Obtaining Representative Samples
    4.1 Uncertainty
    4.2 Sampling and Sampling Plans


Chapter 5- Chemical Fundamentals: Partitioning, Equilibria, and Acid/ Base Chemistry
    5.1 General Considerations
    5.2 An Introductory Example
    5.3 The Special K’s
    5.4 Partitioning
    5.5 Partitioning with a Solid Phase
    5.6 Extension of Partitioning: Thin-Layer Chromatography

Chapter 6- Instrumentation
    6.1 Microscopes and Chemical Microscopy
    6.2 Spectroscopy
    6.3 Mass Spectroscopy
    6.4 Elemental Analysis
    6.5 Microspectrophotometry
    6.6 Electrophoretic Instrumentation


Chapter 7- Drugs as Physical Evidence: Seized Drugs and Their Analysis
    7.1 What is a Drug?
    7.2 Classification and Categories
    7.3 Drugs as Evidence
    7.4 Analysis of Seized Drugs

Chapter 8- Forensic Drug Analysis II: Selected Drug Classes
    8.1 Acidic and Neutral Drugs
    8.2 Basic Drugs

Chapter 9- Drugs in the Body
    9.1 Introduction
    9.2 ADME
    9.3 Compartment Models
    9.4 Absorption
    9.5 Metabolism
    9.6 Elimination
    9.7 An Integrated Approach
    9.8 Dosage Considerations
    9.9 How Drugs Work

Chapter 10- Forensic Toxicology
    10.1 Sample Types
    10.2 Categories of Forensic Toxicology
    10.3 Analytical Methods


Chapter 11- The Chemistry of Combustion and Arson
    11.1 The Combustion Continuum
    11.2 Aspects of Combustion
    11.3 Flames and Fires
    11.4 Arson and Fire Investigation

Chapter 12- Explosives
    12.1 Explosions, Detonations, and Explosives
    12.2 Explosive Power
    12.3 Forensic Analysis of Explosives

Chapter 13- Firearms and Associated Chemical Evidence
    13.1 How Guns Work
    13.2 Primers and Propellants
    13.3 Forensic Chemical Analysis of Firearms Evidence
    13.4 Serial Number Restoration


Chapter 14- The Chemistry of Colors and Colorants