The Use of Advanced Analytical Techniques to Enable Batch and Source Matching of Homemade Explosives

Author: Paul Matthew McCurry

McCurry, Paul Matthew, 2015 The Use of Advanced Analytical Techniques to Enable Batch and Source Matching of Homemade Explosives, Flinders University, School of Chemical and Physical Sciences

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This research describes the application of advanced analytical techniques: namely isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) to the analysis of a variety of ammonium nitrate (AN) based homemade explosives. AN has been widely used in the preparation of homemade explosives (HME) due its relative stability and ease of acquisition. The aim of this research was to develop methods that enable the identification of batch-to-batch matches between samples and to determine the origin of source materials used in such mixtures. Two new analytical methodologies for the analysis of HME samples using IRMS have been developed. These methodologies improve the confidence of source matching, which is important for of the provision of chemical intelligence. These techniques highlight a need to change from the bulk analysis of Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) based HME to the separate analysis of each individual component (carbonate/nitrate) by IRMS. This new methodology has shown potential to be implemented as a way to determine the origin of the CAN used in the preparation of CAN-based HME. By understanding the limitations of bulk analysis and how various processes affect the isotope ratios, or the introduction of trace impurities, it is now possible to link like samples and identify their source materials.

Keywords: Homemade Explosive,Ammonium Nitrate,Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry,Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry,Chemical Profiling

Subject: Chemistry thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2015
School: School of Chemical and Physical Sciences
Supervisor: Associate Professor Stewart Walker