Unknown Substances

True unknowns can occur in many forms, from the popularized “white powder” to smears, dusts, filth, airborne particulates, specks, residues, liquids, and even gases.  Questions that arise from unknown materials may include:

  • What is it?
  • Is a particular component present?
  • Did it originate from this source?
  • Where did this come from?

All of these questions may be answered, and Microtrace scientists have spent their careers developing unique, efficient, and elegant approaches towards answering these and other related questions.

While many laboratories rely on one or two particular methods, Microtrace has built a laboratory full of microanaltyical techniques dedicated to identifying unknown substances to ensure the proper techniques are available to suit a particular material or answer a specific question.  In an era where standardized methods are the norm, it is difficult to fit a standardized method to the identification of a substance that can be literally anything.  For this reason, Microtrace relies on a sample driven approach that is based on fundamental science, which permits a more flexible and complete characterization of truly unknown substances.  These analyses go far beyond the collection of analytical data and auto-generated hit lists.  Instead, we utilize our expertise, libraries, reference collections, and multiple orthogonal methods to confidently identify a substance, and when necessary, work with a client to interpret the data in light of contextual information.


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