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Analysis of the Headspace Composition of Smokeless Powders Using GC-MS, GC-µECD and Ion Mobility Spectrometry

NCJ Number
Forensic Science Journal Dated: 2012 Pages: 1-8
Date Published
8 pages

This article presents the first comprehensive study of the detection of volatile and semi-volatile additives of smokeless powders using solid phase microextraction (SPME) as a sampling and pre-concentration technique.


Smokeless powder additives are usually detected from an extraction of post-blast residues or unburned powder particles followed by chromatographic analyses. In this study, Sixty-five smokeless powders were studied using laboratory-based gas chromatography techniques and a field deployable ion mobility spectrometer (IMS). Analysis of the smokeless powder samples revealed that diphenylamine was present in the headspace of 96 percent of the powders studied. Ethyl centralite was detected in 47 percent of the powders and 8 percent of the powders contained methyl centralite. Nitroglycerin was the dominant peak present in the headspace of the double-based powders. Another important headspace component, 2, 4-dinitrotoluene, was detected in 44per cent of the powders comprising both double and single-based powders. Static headspace SPME of small amounts (~100 mg) of smokeless powder samples for 5 min at room temperature resulted in the successful detection of the headspace components, demonstrating the applicability of this technique for field detection of smokeless powders using IMS as a detector. This study generates a list of compounds that can be used as target compounds for the vapor phase detection of smokeless powders. Tables, figures, and references

Date Published: January 1, 2010