Scanning Electron Microscopy–Energy-Dispersive X-Ray (SEM/EDX): A Rapid Diagnostic Tool to Aid the Identification of Burnt Bone and Contested Cremains

Sarah T.D. Ellingham, Tim J.U. Thompson, Meez Islam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study investigates the use of Scanning electron microscopy–energy-dispersive X-ray (SEM-EDX) as a diagnostic tool for the determination of the osseous origin of samples subjected to different temperatures. Sheep (Ovis aries) ribs of two experimental groups (fleshed and defleshed) were burned at temperatures of between 100°C and 1100°C in 100°C increments and subsequently analyzed with the SEM-EDX to determine the atomic percentage of present elements. Three-factor ANOVA analysis showed that neither the exposure temperature, nor whether the burning occurred with or without soft tissue present had any significant influence on the bone's overall elemental makeup (p > 0.05). The Ca/P ratio remained in the osseous typical range of between 1.6 and 2.58 in all analyzed samples. This demonstrates that even faced with high temperatures, the overall gross elemental content and atomic percentage of elements in bone remain stable, creating a unique “fingerprint” for osseous material, even after exposure to extreme conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-510
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Volume63
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017 American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

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