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AccuTOF-DART® Analysis of Smokeless Powders

Introduction

Smokeless powders (Figure 1) are often used in improvised explosive devices. The formulations for smokeless powders vary between manufacturers and between brands from a given manufacturer; ingredients include energetics, stabilizers, plasticizers and deterrents. Chemical analysis of smokeless powders can provide valuable forensic evidence. Here we show that the AccuTOF-DART mass spectrometer can rapidly identify the organic components in smokeless powders and provide a chemical fingerprint that can be used to identify individual powder particles.

Experimental

The AccuTOF™ mass spectrometer was operated in positive-ion mode. Polyethylene glycol (PEG-600) was measured as a reference standard within each data file, but separate from the smokeless powder particle measurements. Individual particles sampled with vacuum tweezers were positioned in the DART gas stream for analysis (Figure 2). Disposable vacuum tweezers were constructed by passing a glass capillary through an Eppendorf pipette tip and inserting the pipette tip into a rubber hose connected to a low-vacuum pump. Data were acquired by using JEOL Mass Center software and mass spectra were processed by TSSPro3 software (Shrader Software Solutions, Detroit, MI)

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