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The Chemistry Unit conducts timely, high-quality chemical and metallurgical analyses on evidence, reports findings, provides testimony in court, assists in crime scene investigations, and provides advanced training to law enforcement agencies to support the investigative priorities of the FBI and the law enforcement community.

The Team

Chemists, forensic examiners, metallurgists, and instrument managers

The Work

General Chemistry

Analyze unknown powders, liquids, and stains to determine the chemical identity or characteristics. The cases assigned to this subunit usually involve threat letters, dyes, and tear gases associated with bank dye packs, drug and pharmaceutical analyses, ink analyses, analysis of petroleum products, gunshot primer residue (GSR) analyses, and analysis of flammable fluids.


Conduct metallurgical analysis of materials. This is a specialty discipline that few forensic laboratories have available. Therefore, this subunit receives a large number of cases from other federal agencies, as well as state and local contributors. FBI cases submitted to this subunit tend to involve major bombing investigations.

Paints & Polymers

Analyze evidence for paint, tapes, adhesives, and other polymeric materials. The cases submitted to this subunit tend to evolve from hit-and-run homicides, espionage, bombings, and counterterrorism investigations. This subunit also maintains the National Automotive Paint File that has entries from as far back as the 1930s.  The Paints and Polymers Subunit also serve as the U.S. repository for the Paint Data Query database.  Both of these databases are relied upon by state and local law enforcement agencies investigating hit-and-run homicides.


Analyze biological samples and food evidence for the presence of poisons and drugs. In addition to the numerous case submissions from FBI field office investigations, this subunit provides substantial support to state and local agencies who lack appropriate resources to carry out needed toxicological examinations.

Instrument Operation & Support

Maintain and repair all of the Chemistry Unit's analytical instrumentation while ensuring that all are fully compliant with quality assurance mandates. While this subunit is not directly involved in case analyses, it is responsible for over 175 different instruments within the Chemistry Unit.