Investigation into the thermal disruption of the physical and chemical properties of bone

Supervisor 1: Dr Hackman
School/Discipline area: Forensic Anthropology, CAHID, SSE

Name of Supervisor 2: Dr Cunningham
School/Discipline area: Anatomy, CAHID, SSE

Project Description:
The ability to understand the changes to the physical and chemical structure of bone as a consequence of heat damage is critical to the analysis of human remains.

This project will use three methods of analysis to examine the changes that bone undergoes when exposed to heat. Collecting such information under controlled conditions ensures that the data can be used to create a reference database of the changes which occurs to the bone at both a structural and chemical level. This dataset will be tested to demonstrate reliability and repeatability of the methods which are used to analyse the thermal exposure that any given bone has experienced. Finally the methodology will also examine whether it is possible to identify if fractures found on bone may have been present prior to the fire starting or whether they were caused by events during the fire.

Three analytical methods will be utilised to examine the changes in the bone
(1) FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy)
(2) LIBS (Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy) and
(3) micro-CT.
FTIR applies infrared light to both identify and quantify the chemical functional groups present within the bone and can monitor the breakdown of specific chemical bonding as heating occurs. LIBS employs a high energy laser pulse to assist in the process of identifying which elements are present and will provide an orthogonal technique to FTIR to monitor chemical changes in the bone during the thermal decomposition processes. Finally micro-CT imaging creates visual representation of the structural changes which have been experienced by the bone, graphically modelling the deterioration of both the outer and inner surfaces and structures as the thermal degradation progresses. Using these methods in combination and incorporating chemometric analysis will facilitate both quantitative and qualitative examination of bone at both the micro and macro level.