Forensic analysis of laser printed ink by X-ray fluorescence and laser-excited plume fluorescence

Po Chun Chu, Bruno Yue Cai, Yeuk Ki Tsoi, Ronald Yuen, Kelvin S Y LEUNG, Nai Ho CHEUNG*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


We demonstrated a minimally destructive two-tier approach for multielement forensic analysis of laser-printed ink. The printed document was first screened using a portable-X-ray fluorescence (XRF) probe. If the results were not conclusive, a laser microprobe was then deployed. The laser probe was based on a two-pulse scheme: the first laser pulse ablated a thin layer of the printed ink; the second laser pulse at 193 nm induced multianalytes in the desorbed ink to fluoresce. We analyzed four brands of black toners. The toners were printed on paper in the form of patches or letters or overprinted on another ink. The XRF probe could sort the four brands if the printed letters were larger than font 20. It could not tell the printing sequence in the case of overprints. The laser probe was more discriminatory; it could sort the toner brands and reveal the overprint sequence regardless of font size while the sampled area was not visibly different from neighboring areas even under the microscope. In terms of general analytical performance, the laser probe featured tens of micrometer lateral resolution and tens to hundreds of nm depth resolution and atto-mole mass detection limits. It could handle samples of arbitrary size and shape and was air compatible, and no sample pretreatment was necessary. It will prove useful whenever high-resolution and high sensitivity 3D elemental mapping is required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4311-4315
Number of pages5
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2013

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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