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Analysis of Explosives by GC‐UV

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A mixture of explosives was analyzed by gas chromatography (GC) linked to ultraviolet (UV) spectrophotometry that enabled detection in the range of 178–330 nm. The gas‐phase UV spectra of 2,4,6‐trinitrotoluene (TNT), 2,4‐dinitrotoluene (DNT), ethylene glycol dinitrate (EGDN), glycerine trinitrate (NG, nitroglycerine), triacetone triperoxide (TATP), and pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) were successfully recorded. The most interesting aspect of the current application is that it enabled simultaneous detection of both the target analyte and its decomposition products. At suitable elevated temperatures of the transfer line between the GC instrument and the UV detector, a partial decomposition was accomplished. Detection was made in real time and resulted in overlaid spectra of the mother compound and its decomposition product. Hence, the presented approach added another level to the qualitative identification of the explosives in comparison with traditional methods that relies only on the detection of the target analyte. As expected, the decomposition product of EGDN, NG, and PETN was NO, while TATP degraded to acetone. DNT and TNT did not exhibit any decomposition at the temperatures used.
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Keywords: explosive analysis; forensic science; gas chromatography–ultraviolet spectrophotometry; nitrate esters; triacetone triperoxide; ultraviolet detection; ultraviolet spectra

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2017

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