In forensic investigations, the central question always is: Where does the examined sample originate from? Here, the analysis of stable isotopes comes into play. Stable isotope analysis brings unique insight into the origin of an unknown sample. By interrogating the minuscule variations in the relative abundance of the stable isotopes of the light organic elements, a unique and hidden signature can be discovered, revealing information about a sample’s source and history. The application of stable isotope analysis to numerous forensic approaches provides a unique and powerful discriminatory dimension.
Today stable isotope forensics is an approved tool in forensic science and is used for a wide range of applications. Stable isotope forensics can help to determine whether samples of chemically similar substances (drugs, explosives, fibers, etc.) share a common source or history, it is used to distinguish counterfeit products (e.g. pharmaceuticals, food, and flavors) from genuine materials, to determine sources of animal tissues like ivory, to investigate human remains when an unidentified body is found, and to determine if an athlete has used performance enhancing drugs.