With the spectroradiometer, residues such as talc, montmorillonite and kaolinite can be detected at the scene. An example: a woman is kidnapped, caught in a human trafficking ring, or worse. Investigators and police need all the available forensic tools to find and rescue her quickly.

Geology, more precisely: mineralogy carries the key to a form of evidence: makeup. Miami University of Ohio students Jessica Patrick and Jordan West unravel this potentially overlooked but revealing clue. Super tools: a spectroradiometer. “Maybe the eye cannot see, but spectroscopy can,” says Patrick. Patrick, West and other scholarship students for women’s issue studies at the university create a library of spectroscopic signatures and other mineralogical properties of different makeup types. It will eventually be presented to the library, the police, the National Institute of Justice, women’s justice organizations and others. The key is to create a large enough material library. The team has been collecting and analyzing different types of makeup on different surfaces for the past two years. Substrates can include various types of fabric, tiles, bricks, and other materials that can be left behind on the scene.

Co-managing this and other forensic mineralogy projects with Claire McLeod from Miami University, Assoc. West and Patrick note that their growing data base for now is focusing on powder-based makeup such as blush and foundation, which includes the Chemical compound called talc, montmorillonite, and geological materials such as kaolinite. Using the spectroradiometer, they were able to detect imperfections containing only 0.03 grams of makeup per square centimeter. The database will also address diversity by providing spectroscopic signatures of makeup products for different skin tones.

Makeup can help connect suspects, victims, and crimes in a variety of ways. “For example, if a suspect refuses contact with the victim, they could be used to pair makeup products known to be used by the victim (found at the scene), perhaps at home,” West said.

The handheld technology is now ready for use, and the affordable drone-based hyperspectral viewer should be up and running within a few years and can be used for direct on-scene investigation.

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