White-Powder Unknowns

Course Details


This white powders identification course teaches students how to identify white powders using several microscopical identification techniques including: polarized light microscopy (PLM), fluorescence microscopy, and spot tests.

The goal of the Microscopical Identification of White Powders course is the characterization and identification of commonly used non-hazardous hoax materials mailed or shipped as malicious threats, some low order explosives, and potential biological and/or aerosolization components using polarized light microscopy and fluorescence microscopy techniques.

The white powder sample set used for this course was derived from real-world examples that were either described in media accounts or found by First Responders at actual incident sites. Students learn how to identify white powder samples by first studying particle morphology, optical characteristics, and chemical reactions, followed by UV fluorescence observations.

  • Mechanical and optical alignment of a polarizing microscope
  • Illumination
  • Particle handling, manipulation, and mounting
  • Micrometry
  • Morphology
  • Color absorption
  • Crystallography
  • Plane polarized light and refractive index measurement
  • Pleochroism
  • Spot, solubility, and microchemical tests
  • Using crossed polarizers
  • Isotropic and anisotropic particles
  • Birefringence and the Michel-Lévy interference color chart
  • Extinction
  • Compensation
  • Sign of elongation
  • Conoscopy and interference figures
  • Thermo-microscopy and fusion methods
  • UV fluorescence microscopy

Characterization and identification of white powder unknowns.

  • First responders responsible for identifying suspicious white powders
  • Public health scientists
  • Forensic scientists
  • Pharmaceutical scientists
  • Hazardous materials handlers

All instrumentation, materials, and supplies necessary for successful completion of this course will
be provided onsite by Hooke College of Applied Sciences.

“I found this course to be excellent. The instructor was great and very knowledgeable, his teaching techniques help me learn alot. The facilities are top notch and everyone on staff was very helpful. I will be back for more courses.” National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Team

“Excellent instructor, top notch equipment and training aids.” Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Team – Augusta, MI

“Instructor was impressive in explaining complicated topics in understandable terms.” Troy Fire Department

“I learned so much it will take months of practice to put it all together. This class took the fear out of moving forward, to prepare for when the need arises to use the knowledge in real life situations.” Cleveland Fire Department

“Great instruction and great information. For having limited experience with the subject, I absorbed more that what I thought I would.” Royal Oak Fire Department

A college science degree.

Students are expected to successfully complete a variety of tasks in the form of hands-on exercises, laboratory exercises, identifications of unknowns, and quizzes. Students are notified at the end of the course whether or not they have successfully completed the requirements of the course based on:

  • 100% Attendance
  • Class participation
  • Completion of all course material
  • Completed and signed student evaluation form

Upon successfully meeting these requirements, a student is awarded a certificate of completion and CEU credits, if available. Those who have not successfully passed the course requirements do not receive a certificate or CEU credits.

Upcoming Dates


October 7, 2019 - October 11, 2019
$1995 | 3 credits
M - TH | 8am - 5pm F | 8am - 12pm
Instructor: Thomas G. Van Howe, Jr.
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Instructors Who Teach This Course


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Accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET), Hooke College of Applied Sciences provides a research-based, hands-on learning experience taught by some of the best experts in the industry. From continuing education to custom courses to professional development and undergraduate programs, Hooke College will allow you to gain the skills you need.