The analysis and discrimination of pyrolysis products from biological and non-biological sources

  • Gina Gabriel

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This work involves the limited use of human tissue samples. These samples were obtained through body donation and under full ethical approval from the University of Strathclyde ethics committee. Products generated through pyrolysis of common materials can act as background compounds, interfering with the analysis and identification of potential human remains. The development of a robust methodology for the generation and analysis of volatile products from biological (porcine and human tissues) and non-biological (textile materials) sources stands at the core of this study, combined with examining various factors that causes these profiles to deviate. This process began with the validation of porcine samples as a substitute of human samples through the identification of similar key indicators, characteristic to both tissues. Interestingly, different temperature ranges (pre- and post-ignition) and type of porcine tissues utilised were found to effect the type of key indicators detected; and as such, has convincingly resolved key indicators reported in previous research literature. In addition, key indicators of pure and blended textiles were also established and the effects of blended fibres towards the overall thermal properties of the textile, highlighted. Alterations to the key indicators of individual porcine and textile samples were examined, subjectively and objectively, when both samples were burnt together (combined samples). Subjective analysis involved the scrutiny of the chromatographic output, revealing the dominance of key indicators of porcine samples over textiles for majority of the combined samples. EIC and EIP proved to be a beneficial tool in extracting key indicators of porcine samples in the presence of contamination (textiles). At 70% presence, SOFM provided an objective and successful classification and discrimination of pyrolytic data according to the type of pyrolysis product detected across textiles, porcine bones and also in the combined textile-bone samples while underlining meaningful associations amongst similar groups. Overall, although this work suggests that pyrolytic data can be unpredictable, such as its dependence on various factors, with suitable analytical and statistical techniques, it has revealed pertinent information on the key indicators of porcine, human and textiles samples and the inter- and intra-molecular changes that occur to them during pyrolysis.
Date of Award29 May 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorLorraine Gibson (Supervisor) & Lynn Dennany (Supervisor)

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