Development of total vaporization solid phase microextraction and its application to explosives and automotive racing

Dana E Bors, Purdue University


Pipe bombs are a common form of improvised explosive device, due in part to their ease of construction. Despite their simplistic nature, the lethality of pipe bombs should not be dismissed. Due to the risk of harm and their commonality, research into the pipe bomb deflagration process and subsequent chemical analysis is necessary. The laboratory examination of pipe bomb fragments begins with a visual examination. While this is presumptive in nature, hypotheses formed here can lead to subsequent confirmatory exams. The purpose of this study was to measure the mass and velocity of pipe bomb fragments using high speed video. These values were used to discern any trends in container type (PVC or black/galvanized steel), energetic filler (Pyrodex or double base smokeless powder), and ambient temperature (13°C and -8°C). The results show patterns based on container type, energetic filler, and temperature. The second stage of a laboratory exam is chemical analysis to identify any explosive that may be present. Legality calls for identification only, not quantitation. The purpose of this study is to quantitate the amount of explosive residue on post-blast pipe bomb fragments. By doing so, the instrumental sensitivities required for this type of analysis will be known. Additionally, a distribution of the residue will be mapped to provide insight into the deflagration process of a device. This project used a novel sampling technique called total vaporization solid phase microextraction. The method was optimized for nitroglycerin, the main energetic in double base smokeless powder. Detection limits are in the part per billion range. Results show that the concentration of residue is not uniform, and the highest concentration is located on the endcaps regardless of container type. Total vaporization solid phase microextraction was also applied to automotive racing samples of interest to the National Hot Rod Association. The purpose of this project is two-fold; safety of the race teams in the form of dragstrip adhesive consistency and monitoring in the form of fuel testing for illegal adulteration. A suite of analyses, including gas chromatography mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy, and evaporation rate, were developed for the testing of dragstrip adhesives. Gas chromatography mass spectrometry methods were developed for both nitromethane based fuel as well as racing gasolines. Analyses of fuel from post-race cars were able to detect evidence of adulteration. Not only was a novel technique developed and optimized, but it was successfully implemented in the analysis of two different analytes, explosive residue and racing gasoline. TV-SPME shows tremendous promise for the future in its ability to analyze a broad spectrum of analytes.




Goodpaster, Purdue University.

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