Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Chemistry



First Advisor

Chris W. Brown


The purpose of this study was to develop a technique for the identification of the source of an oil spill. The method had to be quick and easy to perform, require a minimum of sample pretreatment and provide an unambiguous identification of the petroleum source. We found that infrared spectroscopy fulfilled all of these requirements. In the spectral region between 650 cm-1 and 1200 cm-1 petroleum samples have as many as 27 absorptions and the relative intensities of these absorptions provide a unique fingerprint for each sample. The intensities of the 21 selected absorptions are coded and stored as absorptivities in a computer file. A computer program compares absorptivities of peaks in the spectrum of an unknown petroleum to corresponding peaks in spectra of the reference petroleum file and matches the unknown to the correct known.

Infrared spectroscopy along with the use of the computer program provides a means of cataloguing known petroleum samples and has made it possible to match an oil spill to its source up to 30 days after the original spill.



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