Forensic evaluation of explosive power and contamination issues

Elmo Resende, University of Rhode Island


The aim of the body of this work is to devise laboratory tests which allow the investigator to determine the type and the power of an explosive. We have devised a test involving the small-scale explosivity device (SSED) for examining explosive power (explosivity) and rated various explosives. The test used a detonator to initiate approximately 2 grams of energetic material in a British 0.303&inches; cartridge case. The percent of cartridge case remaining was correlated to the relative power of a variety of energetic materials. The SSED was benchmarked against a companion pipe bomb study. The pipe bomb study used substantially larger quantities of energetic materials (45 to 700 grams). These field tests involved initiation of the energetic materials in pipes of various dimensions and types with either detonators or squibs. The fragments were counted, weighed, sorted and photographed. The fragment weight distribution map (FWDM), was particularly useful for measuring the power of the explosives. Comparison of the two methods for evaluating explosivity, SSED and pipe bombs, is presented. ^ The ability to detect explosives from improvised explosive devices (IED) is also considered in this work. Most explosives have exceedingly low vapor pressures and the potential for their detection as airborne vapors is very small. Laboratory tests were conducted to determine the inherent spillage potential (sloppiness) and affinity to glass surfaces (stickiness). These results suggest that commonly used military explosives, PETN, RDX and HMX, exhibited similar values for stickiness (to glass) and sloppiness, while TATP was extremely low by both evaluations. ^ To assess the potential interferents to chemical detection of landmines, the postblast residues of TNT were identified and quantified. The degradation rates of the principal post-blast residues (TNT, DNT, 2ADNT, 4ADNT, DNB) were measured in two soil types as a function of soil moisture contents. ^

Subject Area

Chemistry, Analytical

Recommended Citation

Elmo Resende, "Forensic evaluation of explosive power and contamination issues" (2000). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI9999192.