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Identification of inorganic improvised explosive devices by analysis of postblast residues using portable capillary electrophoresis instrumentation and indirect photometric detection with a light-emitting diode

journal contribution
posted on 2007-09-15, 00:00 authored by J P Hutchinson, C J Evenhuis, C Johns, A A Kazarian, M C Breadmore, M Macka, E F Hilder, Rosanne GuijtRosanne Guijt, G W Dicinoski, P R Haddad
A commercial portable capillary electrophoresis (CE) instrument has been used to separate inorganic anions and cations found in postblast residues from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) of the type used frequently in terrorism attacks. The purpose of this analysis was to identify the type of explosive used. The CE instrument was modified for use with an in-house miniaturized light-emitting diode (LED) detector to enable sensitive indirect photometric detection to be employed for the detection of 15 anions (acetate, benzoate, carbonate, chlorate, chloride, chlorite, cyanate, fluoride, nitrate, nitrite, Perchlo rate, phosphate, sulfate, thiocyanate, thiosulfate) and 12 cations (ammonium, monomethylammonium, ethylammonium, potassium, sodium, barium, strontium, magnesium, manganese, calcium, zinc, lead) as the target analytes. These ions are known to be present in postblast residues from inorganic IEDs constructed from ammonium nitrate/fuel oil mixtures, black powder, and chlorate/perchlorate/sugar mixtures. For the analysis of cations, a blue LED (470 nm) was used in conjunction with the highly absorbing cationic dye, chrysoidine (absorption maximum at 453 nm). A nonaqueous background electrolyte comprising 10 mM chrysoidine in methanol was found to give greatly improved baseline stability in comparison to aqueous electrolytes due to the increased solubility of chrysoidine and its decreased adsorption onto the capillary wall. Glacial acetic acid (0.7% v/v) was added to ensure chrysoidine was protonated and to enhance separation selectivity by means of complexation with transition metal ions. The 12 target cations were separated in less than 9.5 min with detection limits of 0.11-2.30 mg/L (calculated at a signal-to-noise ratio of 3). The anions separation system utilized a UV LED (370 nm) in conjunction with an aqueous chromate electrolyte (absorption maximum at 371 nm) consisting of 10 mM chromium(VI) oxide and 10 mM sodium Chromate, buffered with 40 mM tris(hydroxymethyl)-aminomethane at pH 8.05. All 15 target anions were baseline separated in less than 9 min with limits of detection ranging from 0.24 to 1.15 mg/L (calculated at a signal-to-noise ratio of 3). Use of the portable instrumentation in the field was demonstrated by analyzing postblast residues in a mobile laboratory immediately after detonation of the explosive devices. Profiling the ionic composition of the inorganic IEDs allowed identification of the chemicals used in their construction.



Analytical chemistry






7005 - 7013


American Chemical Society


Washington, D.C.







Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2007, American Chemical Society