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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 14 Issue 1 (2009) pp 10-12

Arson Investigation: A Gas Chromatography Laboratory Experience for General Chemistry

Angela C. Orf, Meghan Morris, and James Chapman*

Rockhurst University, Kansas City, MO 64110,
Received November 24, 2007. Accepted July 17, 2008.

Published online: 20 January 2009

Abstract. We have developed an arson investigation experiment for the introduction of gas chromatography analysis and forensic sample preparation into the general chemistry laboratory. Working with information provided to us from the Kansas City Crime Lab, we modified their procedures to yield a less expensive method and more suitable time frame to complement our laboratory schedule. The experiment is carried out over a three-week period with a total time commitment of 2 to 3 hours. The laboratory is designed to be an add-on to our schedule without taking the place of any existing experiments. The students are introduced to the concepts of gas chromatography (single and multi-vial sampling procedures), sample preparation, data acquisition, and data analysis.

Key Words: Laboratories and Demonstrations; general chemistry; arson; gas chromatography; accelerants; forensic

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

Article in PDF format (81 KB) HTML format

Supporting Materials:

Sources for materials and a student handout are included in the supporting materials (88 KB)

Issue date: February 2, 2009

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