The Analysis of Black Powder Substitutes Containing Ascorbic Acid by Ion Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Forensic Science Laboratory, Ammendale, MD 20705-1250, USA.
Journal of Forensic Sciences (Impact Factor: 1.16). 09/2009; 54(6):1315-22. DOI: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2009.01144.x
Source: PubMed


Black powder substitutes containing ascorbic acid are a group of low explosives that utilize ascorbic acid as the fuel. The analysis of these powders is complicated by the degradation of ascorbic acid which occurs rapidly in solution and may also occur as the powder ages. Aqueous extracts of both intact powders and postblast residues were analyzed by an existing ion chromatography/mass spectrometry (IC/MS) method used at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Results have shown that while ascorbic acid itself is not detected in this method, its diagnostic degradation products (threonic acid, monohydrated diketogulonic acid, and oxalic acid) can be identified. In addition, anions from the inorganic oxidizers (perchlorate and nitrate) and combustion products such as chloride, chlorate, and nitrite, can be identified within the same experiment. While this IC/MS method shows promise, future modifications are necessary because of limitations in identifying threonate in postblast residues, as well as coeluting compounds observed in postblast residues.

    • "Significant research has been conducted advancing the accurate and sensitive detection of explosives, most frequently common military-grade nitrated organic explosives, including nitramines, nitroaromatics, and nitrate esters such as cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine (RDX), trinitrotoluene (TNT), and pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN). These explosives have been detected using a range of analytical techniques, including ion chromatography (IC) [1] [2], capillary electrophoresis (CE) [3] [4], high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) [5], and most notably, ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) [6e13] and mass spectrometry (MS) [14e22]. The rapid analysis times and cost effectiveness of these field compatible instruments have led to widespread deployment of ion mobility spectrometry. "
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