The Cranfield Forensic Institute is proud of its excellent laboratory facilities, offering a diverse range of techniques for analysis of a wide range of sample types and materials. The facilities reflect the broad research interests within the CFI, as well as collaborations with colleagues from both Cranfield and other universities and industry. Read more Read less

The main laboratory houses a micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) scanner for non-destructive 2D and 3D imaging; also nano-CT imaging for high-resolution imaging of small samples. X-Ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) for elemental analysis. The ICP-MS is capable of analysis in solution mode or of solid samples via laser ablation (LA-ICP-MS) and the GRIM microscope for glass refractive index measurement.

Perkin Elmer FTIR microscope

“Fourier transform infrared (FT‐IR) microscopy … is a key technique in forensic science for the collection of infrared spectra from microscopic particles of trace evidence (such as paint, textile fibers, and particles of explosives) and individual crystals, as might be found in drug preparations.” (K Paul Kirkbride, in Wiley’s Encyclopaedia – see chapter on “Microscopy: FTIR”) 

Our chemical imaging system is based on a Spotlight 200 microscope fitted with a liquid nitrogen-cooled HgCdTe (MCT) detector, attached to a Spectrum 100 mid-IR bench. Using Spectrum 10 software to control the microscope’s motorised sample stage, we can build spectral maps to visualise the distribution of IR-active species, in transmission or external reflectance modes, as appropriate – depending on sample thickness and its optical properties. Spatial resolution is typically around 25-100 microns (depending on application).

One of our recent alumni, Dr Andrew Johnston, used this system extensively during his doctoral studies on the composition and behavior of synthetic surrogates for fingermarks.

Horiba Raman microscope

Our Raman system is based around a fibre optically-coupled Olympus BX microscope, in an interlocked laser safety enclosure. Using x50 standard working distance objectives (~0.5 mm between tip and sample) we target objects ~2-4 micrometres in size (lateral resolution) in reflected bright field mode. We then excite at 532 nm, using a fibre-coupled single-grating spectrograph and a thermoelectrically-cooled CCD to analyse the collected Raman scattering to ~100 cm-1 Stokes shift. 

Recently, we have used the system to examine a number of different types of sample, including:

  • Novel photoreactive materials (e.g. BiSI)
  • Nitrocellulose films incorporating graphene oxide
  • Bone
  • Ceramics

Confocal operation, used to tightly define lateral and axial spatial resolution, may also be appropriate, depending on sample properties. We have also commissioned an interlocked enclosure for our fibre-optic probe head, for bulk liquid and powder measurements. These techniques require reconfiguration of the system and their availability is not guaranteed.

Other Instruments

Many instruments have additional features, such as XRF-mapping facilities, a microscope and temperature stage for FTIR analysis. A portable laser scanner, hand-held XRF and hand held spectrophotometer for colorimetry are also available for on- or off-site analysis. A separate X-ray diffraction (XRD) laboratory is home to five X-ray diffractometers for structural and compositional analysis of organic and inorganic materials.

Additional facilities are available for sample preparation and recording. Optical microscopy and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) are also available. Please visit Microscopy Analysis for more details about this facility.

Using the Facilities

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All users of any of these facilities must have a safety induction to the CFI Laboratory, and all visitors must be accompanied.

For commercial clients, we strongly recommend prospective users to undertake a short investigation, to assess their application’s viability, before committing to a significant work programme. Pricing is available on request.

CFI Analytical Lab

Summary of applications

  • Modern and archaeological bone
  • Cultural heritage artefacts
  • Explosives and ballistics analysis
  • X-ray imaging

Using the facility

MSc students on the Forensic Modular Masters Programme have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience of many of the laboratory techniques available both through modular taught units (including the Analytical Techniques and Trace Evidence modules) and through their independent research projects. PhD students also have access to the facilities for their research.

Commercial analysis is undertaken for both academic and industrial partners for many techniques, including micro-CT, XRD, and SEM. Enquiries regarding commercial or collaborative analysis should initially be made directly to