Explosives Analysis

Forensic analyst prepares sample

The Forensic Science Center (FSC) engages in the analysis of explosives for forensic, stockpile stewardship, and safety purposes. The FSC’s ISO-17025 certification covers the analysis of explosives and explosive-related materials, thus the FSC can provide analytical support for samples containing explosives. Analysis can include identification and quantification of the explosive compounds present in a variety of environmental, aqueous, or organic matrices. This ISO accreditation is maintained by participation in blind proficiency tests on a biannual basis. Detection techniques typically include liquid chromatography or gas chromatography techniques as well as mass spectrometry.

An additional focus area for explosives research is engaging in the determination of impurities present in explosives made onsite. Explosives can be made of pure substances, or they can contain intended or unintended impurities or additives. We use advanced analytical techniques to determine the purity of the explosive material and identify the impurities that may be present. Data can be used to monitor the stability of an explosive as it ages, optimize synthesis methods, or select appropriate materials for use. The FSC also provides analysis of stabilizers that are included in propellants. It is important to monitor the concentration of a stabilizer present in a propellant as it ages to ensure the safety threshold is met over time. As the propellant ages, the stabilizer can be consumed, and if it falls below a certain level, the propellant may become unstable.