School Forensics Experiment

ed-2012-00261a_0007A nice paper in J Chem Ed just out (behind the paywall, but contacting author usually works). It introduces the concept of paper based diagnostics for the analysis of small amounts of sample. Essentially a small amount of paper cut out using a decorative paper punch is pre-treated with indicator and allowed to dry. Once dried, this can then be used to test a sample for acidity or whatever else is of interest. A drop of analyte is transferred to the paper using a swab or capillary tube.

The paper and supplementary information provides elaborate details of context based forensic scenarios, along with instructor and student directions (which are detailed but need a good edit). There’s lots of good stuff too on the scientific inquiry.The indicators test for “cyanide” – thankfully just hydroxide ions – and creatine. (I’m not sure I agree with the principle of pretending it’s cyanide, but that’s another matter).

Developing the idea:

It struck me that it could be interesting to develop this idea further, and get students at upper level/early undergraduate to develop a more elaborate matrix for testing a particular range of analytes – e.g. anions. Any suggestions welcome. What could be adsorbed and dried onto paper that would give a colour change with a drop of analyte. Clever chemists: hear the call!

3 thoughts on “School Forensics Experiment

  1. That could be really useful for the Victorian Pharmacy project. If it was possible to make paper based indicators for anions it would be possible to take more “risky” analyses to the museum without worrying about the chemicals as much. Like the idea of it being an undergrad project, good way to impose meaning on the sometimes tedious testtube reactions….

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