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Explosive residue: Evaluation and optimisation of detection and sampling procedures

7 March 2012

Nadia Abdul-Karim

Post explosion residue analysis is based on the assumption that, to even a small degree, there has been incomplete combustion of the original explosive material. In practice, such residual explosive material has to be isolated from large amounts of debris, or materials which cannot be transported to a laboratory, but can be found to cover wide areas. As yet, there is no scientifically sound method employed to choose items on which there would be a greater chance of finding explosive residues. Based on practice, items are usually collected according to their proximity to the explosion centre, but there are no rigid rules.

Theoretical models regarding residue distribution have been developed, yet the experimental work to support the models is limited. Furthermore, whilst a great deal of literature is available on the laboratory analysis of explosive residues, research regarding sample collection procedures is minimal. Preliminary work conducted in this area has highlighted the need for further investigation into the uses of various sampling media in order to optimise sampling efficiency.

The aim of this research is to establish knowledge about the spatial distribution of post-blast explosive residues and produce an empirical evaluation of sampling methodologies for trace samples. As for my Masters project, I continue to receive help from the Met Police, and I now have a more formal link with Cranfield University. Additionally, I also receive input from the Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology, who have offered the use of some of their equipment should I need it during the project. Finally, I liaise with the Forensic Explosives Laboratory at DSTL who have allowed me access to their site to see their facilities and discuss potential future collabration with them.