Evaluating the feasibility of implementing direct analysis in real time - mass spectrometry for the forensic examination of post-blast debris
MetadataShow full item record
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) continue to be a national threat to the safety and security of the public. Research in explosives analysis for intact and post-blast samples continue to be a topic in which practitioners are constantly improving and searching for faster methods and techniques to analyze these sample types. The key role crime laboratories play in analyzing these sample types can have limitations, such as increasing turnaround times and backlogs. This concern additionally plays a role in the safety of the public if an unknown individual has not been discovered. Current analytical instrumentation in which explosives are analyzed includes Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS), Liquid Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS), and Ion Mobility Spectrometry (IMS). Each instrument has benefits in the analytical results obtained. Direct Analysis in Real Time - Mass Spectrometry (DART-MS) has shown a significant promise as an analytical approach that can help remedy the time an explosive sample is analyzed, while additionally providing discriminating analytical results. Previous research has shown that DART-MS is capable of analyzing explosives, including smokeless powder. A limitation currently in the area of smokeless powder analysis with DART-MS is the application of utilizing this method and technology to realistic casework that may be encountered in forensic laboratories. Intact and post-blast explosive samples encountered in forensic laboratories arrive in various states and conditions. For example, the severity of the blast and environmental factors may play a role in the detection of smokeless powder on these sample types. To provide objective information and additional research, studies were conducted with mixture samples of smokeless powder and potential matrices that may be encountered in real world case samples. Faster processing time, in addition to the discrimination of smokeless powder, was the ultimate goal of this research. Due to the complexity of the mass spectra that may be generated from sample mixtures, an extraction technique coupled with DART-MS was investigated. A liquid-liquid extraction (LLE) method and dynamic headspace concentration using Carbopack™ X coated wire mesh were tested for the effectiveness of separating the analytes of interest of smokeless powder from various matrix interferences. Hodgdon Hornady LEVERevolution (HHL) smokeless powder, Pennzoil 10W-40 (P10W40) motor oil, and residue from metal end caps (China SLK brand) and black steel pipe nipples (Schedule 40) were used during the course of the matrix interference study. The method of applying dynamic headspace concentration using Carbopack™ X coated wire mesh and analysis by DART-MS provides an effective alternative to obtaining mass spectral data in a shorter amount of time, compared to techniques currently used in forensic laboratories. Effective separation was not achieved using the various LLE methods tested. Further testing would be required in order to evaluate the feasibility of implementing the technique as a sample preparation approach prior to analysis by DART-MS.