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Molecular Imaging of Banknote and Questioned Document Using Solvent-Free Gold Nanoparticle-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Imaging Mass Spectrometry

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journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2011, 00:00 by Ho-Wai Tang, Melody Yee-Man Wong, Sharon Lai-Fung Chan, Chi-Ming Che, Kwan-Ming Ng
Direct chemical analysis and molecular imaging of questioned documents in a non/minimal-destructive manner is important in forensic science. Here, we demonstrate that solvent-free gold-nanoparticle-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry is a sensitive and minimal destructive method for direct detection and imaging of ink and visible and/or fluorescent dyes printed on banknotes or written on questioned documents. Argon ion sputtering of a gold foil allows homogeneous coating of a thin layer of gold nanoparticles on banknotes and checks in a dry state without delocalizing spatial distributions of the analytes. Upon N2 laser irradiation of the gold nanoparticle-coated banknotes or checks, abundant ions are desorbed and detected. Recording the spatial distributions of the ions can reveal the molecular images of visible and fluorescent ink printed on banknotes and determine the printing order of different ink which may be useful in differentiating real banknotes from fakes. The method can also be applied to identify forged parts in questioned documents, such as number/writing alteration on a check, by tracing different writing patterns that come from different pens.