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FBI Laboratory seal

FBI Laboratory heading

Graphic for Chemistry Unit

The Chemistry Unit is divided into four subunits whose analyses and functions include the following:

General Chemistry Subunit

  • Identifies specific dyes and chemicals used in bank security devices. Analyzes items such as clothing or currency for the presence of these dyes and chemicals.

  • Analyzes controlled substances to determine identity and quantity.

  • Compares stains or markings to suspected sources. Detects presence of lubricants and compares to suspected sources.

  • Compares the formulations of known and questioned ink (e.g., pens, typewriters, stamp pads).

  • Conducts chemical characterizations of unknown solids or liquids.

  • Performs pharmaceutical identification of constituent composition, active ingredients, quantity, and weight.

Toxicology Subunit

  • Conducts toxicological analyses of biological specimens or food products for drugs, drug metabolites, and poisons.

  • Investigates claims of product tampering.

Paints and Polymers Subunit

  • Analyzes paint chips for comparison to suspected sources.

  • Conducts automotive make, model, and year determinations from suspected paint samples. Maintains the National Automotive Paint File.

  • Compares plastics to suspected sources.

  • Determines tape composition, construction, and color for comparison to suspected sources. Determines manufacturer of suspected duct tape. Performs tape identifications with the torn or cut end of the tape and a roll of suspected tape. Maintains the National Forensic Tape File.

  • Compares caulks, sealants, and adhesives by color and composition to suspected sources.

Instrumentation Operation
and Support Subunit

  • Calibrates and maintains analytical instrumentation.

  • Evaluates new technologies.

  • Maintains the Chemistry Unit Instrument Database.

  • Archives data.


Graphic showing a powdered drug sample

A drug sample

Graphic showing pills

Pills submitted for analysis

Graphic showing a pipette used in toxicology examinations

Toxicological sampling

Graphic showing autosampling equipment

An autosampling device

Photo showing blood samples from a murder investigation

Blood samples from a murder investigation

For more information on the examinations conducted by the Chemistry Unit, see the Toxicology, Controlled Substances, and Paints, Polymers, and Adhesives sections of the Handbook of Forensic Services.

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Information revised October 2000