Paint Overspray

Addressing Damaged Property Issues

Through Microscopy: A Case Study

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THE PROBLEM: White specks resembling dried paint droplets were observed on the exterior surfaces of automobiles parked in the same parking lot. MVA Scientific Consultants was asked to determine if the “white specks” were over spray from paint being applied in the vicinity of the cars.

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Unknown material tested for paint over spray

THE ANALYSIS: Samples collected from automobiles and the suspect paint were analyzed by polarized light microscopy (PLM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), coupled with energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS) and infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) to determine if the material on the cars was consistent with paint. The “white specks” from the cars and samples of the suspect paint were primarily silicon (Si) and titanium (Ti).

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THE IMAGE: EDS spectra of these results are shown on the right in Figures 1 and 2, respectively. Figure 3 shows FTIR spectra from the white specks on cars (top) and from the paint (bottom).

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THE OUTCOME: Comparison of the composition of the white specks on the cars with the reference paint indicates the “white specks” are an overspray consistent with the suspect paint.