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Multiple Stable Isotope Characterization as a Forensic Tool to Distinguish Acid Scavenger Samples*

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Abstract:  Acid scavengers are frequently used as stabilizer compounds in a variety of applications. When used to stabilize volatile compounds such as nerve agents, the lower volatility and higher stability of acid scavengers make them more persistent in a post‐event forensic setting. Compound‐specific isotope analysis of carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen in three acid‐scavenging compounds (N,N‐diethylaniline, tributylamine, and triethylamine) were used as a tool for distinguishing between different samples. Combined analysis of multiple isotopes improved sample resolution, for instance differentiation between triethylamine samples improved from 80% based on carbon alone to 96% when combining with additional isotope data. The compound‐specific methods developed here can be applied to instances where these compounds are not pure, such as when mixed with an agent or when found as a residue. Effective sample matching can be crucial for linking compounds at multiple event sites or linking a supply inventory to an event.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, PO Box 999, Richland, WA 99352.

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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