Quantification and aging of the post-blast residue of TNT landmines

Document Type


Date of Original Version



Post-blast residues are potential interferents to chemical detection of landmines. To assess the potential problem related to 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT), its post-blast residue was identified and quantified. In the first part of this study laboratory-scale samples of TNT (2 g) were detonated in a small-scale explosivity device (SSED) to evaluate the explosive power and collect post-blast residue for chemical analysis. Initiator size was large relative to the TNT charge; thus, issues arose regarding choice of initiator, residue from the initiator, and afterburning of TNT. The second part of this study detonated 75 to 150 g of military-grade TNT (typical of antipersonnel mines) in 55-gal barrels containing various witness materials (metal plates, sand, barrel walls, the atmosphere). The witness materials were analyzed for explosive residue. In a third set of tests, 75-g samples of TNT were detonated over soil (from Fort Leonard Wood or Sandia National Laboratory) in an indoor firing chamber (100 by 4.6 by 2.7 m high). Targeted in these studies were TNT and four explosive-related compounds (ERC): 2,4-dintrotoluene (DNT), 1,3-dinitrobenzene (DNB), 2- and 4-aminodinitrotoluene (2-ADNT and 4-ADNT). The latter two are microbial degradation products of TNT. Post-blast residue was allowed to age in the soils as a function of moisture contents (5 and 10%) in order to quantify the rate of degradation of the principal residues (TNT, DNT, and DNB) and formation of the TNT microbial degradation products (2-ADNT and 4-ADNT). The major distinction between landmine leakage and post-blast residue was not the identity of the species but relative ratios of amounts. In landmine leakage the DNT/TNT ratio was usually greater than 1. In post-blast residue it was on the order of 1 to 1/100th of a percent, and the total amount of pre-blast residue (landmine leakage) was a factor of 1/100 to 1/1000 less than post-blast. In addition, landmine leakage resulted in low DNT/ADNT ratios, usually less than 1, whereas pre-blast residues started with ratios above 20. Because with time DNT decreased and ADNT increased, over a month the ratio decreased by a factor of 2. The rate of TNT degradation in soil observed in this study was much slower than that reported when initial concentrations of TNT were lower. Degradation rates yielded half-lives of 40 and 100 days for 2,4-DNT and TNT, respectively.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of Forensic Sciences