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Elemental Characterization and Discrimination of Nontoxic Ammunition Using Scanning Electron Microscopy with Energy Dispersive X‐Ray Analysis and Principal Components Analysis

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Concerns over the toxic by‐products produced by traditional ammunition have led to an increase in popularity of nontoxic ammunition. In this work, the chemical composition of six brands of nontoxic ammunition was investigated and compared to that of a road flare, which served as an environmental source with similar composition. Five rounds of each brand were fired while a further five were disassembled and the primer alone was fired. Particles collected from all samples, including the road flare, were analyzed by scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X‐ray analysis. Common elements among the different ammunition brands included aluminum, potassium, silicon, calcium, and strontium. Spectra were then subjected to principal components analysis in which association of the primer to the intact ammunition sample was generally possible, with distinction among brands and from the road flare sample. Further, PCA loadings plots indicated the elements responsible for the association and discrimination observed.
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Keywords: element composition; forensic science; nontoxic ammunition; principal components analysis; scanning electron microscopy/energy dispersive X‐ray analysis

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2016

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