Forensic analysis of explosives using isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) - Preliminary study on TATP and PETN
- Publication Type:
- Journal Article
- Science and Justice, 2009, 49 (2), pp. 81 - 86
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The application of isotopic techniques to investigations requiring the provision of evidence to a Court is limited. The objective of this research was to investigate the application of light stable isotopes and isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) to solve complex forensic cases by providing a level of discrimination not achievable utilising traditional forensic techniques. Due to the current threat of organic peroxide explosives, such as triacetone triperoxide (TATP), research was undertaken to determine the potential of IRMS to differentiate samples of TATP that had been manufactured utilising different starting materials and/or manufacturing processes. In addition, due to the prevalence of pentaerythritoltetranitrate (PETN) in detonators, detonating cord, and boosters, the potential of the IRMS technique to differentiate PETN samples from different sources was also investigated. Carbon isotope values were measured in fourteen TATP samples, with three definite groups appearing in the initial sample set based on the carbon data alone. Four additional TATP samples (in a second set of samples) were distinguishable utilising the carbon and hydrogen isotopic compositions individually, and also in combination with the oxygen isotope values. The 3D plot of the carbon, oxygen and hydrogen data demonstrated the clear discrimination of the four samples of TATP. The carbon and nitrogen isotope values measured from fifteen PETN samples, allowed samples from different sources to be readily discriminated. This paper demonstrates the successful application of IRMS to the analysis of explosives of forensic interest to assist in discriminating samples from different sources. This research represents a preliminary evaluation of the IRMS technique for the measurement of stable isotope values in TATP and PETN samples, and supports the dedication of resources for a full evaluation of this application in order to achieve Court reportable IRMS results. Crown Copyright © 2009.
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