Forensic science: the new method to detect where homemade explosives came from

Am image to illustrate homemade explosives.
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There is a new way of detecting homemade explosives which will help forensic scientists to trace where it came from.

The method of detecting homemade explosives has been developed by researchers at King’s College London in collaboration with Northumbria University. The study has been published in Analytica Chimica Acta.

Using forensic science to detect the origins of homemade explosives

Homemade explosives have been used in a number of high profile crimes such as the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and the Oslo attacks in 2011. They are also used in ATM robberies. Traditionally homemade explosives have been challenging to detect and trace using forensic analysis samples.

The new technique

The new approach uses ion chromatagrophy which is high resolution mass spectrometry. Using the new technique, the team has shown that it is possible to detect a large number of the components of homemade explosives, down to very low trace amounts. 

Dr Leon Barron from King’s Colleg London said: “The technique is able to tell us so much more than just the explosives content. It detects thousands of different compounds simultaneously, which means there is an element of in-built future-proofing capability to detect new types of explosives if needed or provide critical information about where a device came from or who it belongs to.”

They were able to successfully interpret the time since the explosive materials were handled by the creator by analysing sweat. They were also able to find out what type of ammunition was used by analysing gunshot residue.

Lead author Dr Matteo Gallidabino added: “The method we developed is less time consuming and represents a viable solution for challenging explosives like these. By combining this approach with advanced data analytics, added intelligence can be retrieved from any evidence recovered. This has the potential to significantly impact criminal investigations and further enhance the role of forensics in the administration of justice.”

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