Testing for explosives: Forensics and hazards

Suvarna Kishore Marimganti, University of Rhode Island


Hair has been used extensively for detection of drugs. Hair analysis has also been shown to be quicker and less invasive than other methods used for analysis of environmental pollutants in biological systems. This study examined the ability of hair to pick up explosives [2, 4, 6-trinitro toluene (TNT), hexahydro-1, 3, 3-trinitro-s-triazine (RDX), pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN), ethylene glycol dinitrate (EGDN), 2, 4-dinitrotoluene (2, 4-DNT), nitroglycerine (NG), triacetone triperoxide (TATP) and diacetone diperoxide (DADP)] via vapor diffusion. The results showed that the sorption of explosive to black hair is significantly higher than brown, blond and bleached hair. The hair did not reach a saturation level, at least for TNT, even in 2.5 years. Persistence of sorbed explosive upon was examined. In a study using only black hair, there was some racial bias associated with Mongoloid black hair. Neither age nor gender was a factor; some black hair sorbed explosives extremely well, and others did not. Overall, explosive sorption appeared to be an individual characteristic. TNT and TATP were targeted for further studies. TNT appeared between the surface and in the core of hair where as TATP appeared mostly on the surface. A number of other fibers and matrices were used to compare the sorption criteria. The practicality of using airport screening instrumentation on hair for detection of explosives was studied. ^ The second part of this work attempts to use laboratory-scale tests to predict detonability of materials. Seeking a correlation with detonability of large quantities of' energetic materials, four laboratory tests were used. The characteristics considered indicative of detonability were ability to fragment a metal casing, when initiated by a detonator, and ability to produce large quantities of gas and heat. The best developed of these tests is differential scanning calorimetry because it has already been pioneered by other researchers. A limitation of this study is that large-scale detonability remains unknown for a number of materials examined; thus, it is difficult to sufficiently evaluate the success of the small-scale analyses. ^

Subject Area

Anthropology, Medical and Forensic|Chemistry, Analytical

Recommended Citation

Suvarna Kishore Marimganti, "Testing for explosives: Forensics and hazards" (2006). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3248237.