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Shattered: Forensic Glass Analysis. What is Glass?. “An inorganic product of fusion which has cooled to a rigid condition without crystallizing” Uniform amorphous solid No specific m.p. Softens over a temperature range. 'Ordinary' sheet glass

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Shattered: Forensic Glass Analysis

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Shattered forensic glass analysis

Shattered: Forensic Glass Analysis

What is glass

What is Glass?

  • “An inorganic product of fusion which has cooled to a rigid condition without crystallizing”

  • Uniform amorphous solid

  • No specific m.p.

  • Softens over a temperature

  • range

Shattered forensic glass analysis

'Ordinary' sheet glass

-made by passing the molten glass through rollers; process gives an almost flat finish but with distortions.

-glass is used in glazing greenhouses and garden sheds where the visual distortions do not matter.

Float glass (plate)

Float glass gets its name from the method of production used to manufacture it.

-molten glass is 'floated' onto a bed of molten tin

-produces a glass which is flat and distortion free

-process imparts a fluorescence to the glass [UV light]

Shattered forensic glass analysis

Rolled Glass

Float Glass

Float Glass Process

Shattered forensic glass analysis

Toughened (Safety glass)

-glass is produced by applying a special treatment to ordinary float glass after it has been cut to size and finished.

-treatment involves heating the glass so that it begins to soften (about 620 C) and then rapidly cooling it.

-produces a glass which, if broken, breaks into small pieces without sharp edges.

Laminated glass

-glass is made up of a sandwich of two or more sheets of glass (or plastic), bonded together by a flexible, normally transparent material.

-if cracked or broken, the flexible material is designed to hold the glass fragments in place.

What s in glass

What’s in Glass?

  • Network Components-Formers:

    SiO2, B2O3, P2O5, GeO2, V2O5, As2O3, Sb2O5

  • Fluxes–Softeners [lowers melting point]:

    Na2O, K2O, LiO, Al2O3, B2O3, Cs2O

  • Stabilizers–Chemical/Corrosion Resistance:

    CaO, MgO, Al2O3, PbO, SrO, BaO, ZnO, ZrO

Major types and uses

Major Types and Uses

  • Soda lime silicate glass

    SiO2 + Na2O / K2O + CaO / Al2O3 / MgO

    • Flat glass, container glass, electric light bulbs

  • Borosilicate glass

    > 5% B2O3 (replaces Na2O)

    Lab glassware, thermometers, cookware, sealed-beam headlights

Shattered forensic glass analysis

  • Aluminosilicate glass

    • Higher percentage of aluminum

    • higher temperatures than borosilicate

    • Aluminoborosilicate – 50:50 Al/B

    • Labware, cookware, and glass fibers

  • Lead alkali silicate (leaded glass)

    • Up to 80% PbO

    • high refractive index

    • “Crystal” tableware,

Shattered forensic glass analysis

Different glasses-domestic windows, car headlamps, light bulb glass-are produced differently from different chemistries.

Forensic individualization of glass

Forensic Individualization of Glass

  • Flat Glass–Soda lime silicate

    -Rolling or Floating

    • Tempered: Rapid Cooling

      • Adds Strength

      • Dices when broken

      • Automotive windows & security windows

      • Float Glass floresces when excited at 254 nm.

Shattered forensic glass analysis

  • Coated: Surface modification

    • Mirrors

  • Laminated: Sandwiched around plastic

    • Automotive windshields

  • Headlights: often borosilicate

  • Light bulbs: soda lime glass

  • Heat absorbing/ UV filtering

    • tinting

  • Eyeglasses: prescription lenses/photosensitive

Shattered forensic glass analysis

  • Container Glass

    • Lower magnesium, higher sodium

    • Clear vs. greenish (window)

  • Glass Fibers

    • Fiberglass insulation

    • Alumino-borosilicate

    • Binder (red or yellow) to hold fibers in bundles

Forensic analysis of glass

Forensic Analysis of Glass

Fundamental Question: Is it Glass?

  • Isotropic vs. Anisotropic

    • Glass: Isotropic

      • dark when rotated under crossed polarizers

    • Crystalline solids and plastics: Anisotropic

      • Change retardation when rotated under crossed polarizers

  • Hardness

  • Solubility

Comparison of physical characteristics

Comparison of Physical Characteristics

  • Color

  • Flatness

  • Thickness

  • Fluorescence–Float Glass

    • 254 nm

Physical properties

Physical Properties

  • Density

    • Sink-Float Method

      • CHBr3, C2H2Br4, Sodium Polytungstate

    • Density Range:

      2.465-2.540 g/cm3

Shattered forensic glass analysis

When 2 substances have different RI, light passing through them produces a Becke Line

A Becke line is a band or rim of light visible along a grain/crystal boundary in plane-polarized light.

Shattered forensic glass analysis

Glass analysis is often

performed using our old

friend the PLM

-the goal of glass analysis

by PLM is to individualize an

evidence glass fragment to an

exemplar from a crime scene

[primary or secondary]

Shattered forensic glass analysis

Populations of

Glass RIs

Shattered forensic glass analysis

GRIM II System

-automated system for matching glass RI

-uses a step-heating stage and a RI liquid that varies

with temperature

Shattered forensic glass analysis

GRIM II identifies the RI match by monitoring a

video image of the glass fragment in the liquid

-as it is heated/cooled the contrast is measured until

a minimum is reached-the match point

Shattered forensic glass analysis

  • Chemical Composition –

    • Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP)

    • SEM/EDS

    • Neutron Activation Analysis

    • X-Ray Fluorescence

Shattered forensic glass analysis

How does Glass break?

Forensic Fracture Analysis



Begin at a point and radiate

outward from point of impact

-initial crack is on the side

opposite the applied force



Motion of the projectile through the glass

puts tension on the front surface of the glass,

causing concentric fractures.

-high-speed projectile [a rock] penetrates the

glass, it leaves an exit hole larger than it's

entrance hole.

-helps to determine the direction on impact.

Shattered forensic glass analysis

  • A determination of the direction of force in breaking a window pane:

  • -direction of the rib marks

  • [stress marks on broken edges of glass that are perpendicular to one side of glass]

  • For radial fractures (radiating from the center):

  • - the direction of the force is on the same side as the tangential parts of the rib marks.

Bullets and glass

It’s possible to determine

the bullet's direction by

noting the side of the cone-

shaped hole left by the


-small opening is on the



Bullets and Glass

Counting bullet holes

Counting Bullet Holes

Determination of the sequence of bullet holes can be made by noting the radial fractures.

Radial fractures caused by the passage of a bullet stop at pre-existing fracture.

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