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Flammable Solvent Detection Directly From Common Household Materials Yields Differential Results: An Application of Direct Analysis in Real-Time Mass Spectrometry

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Identification Volume: 58 Issue: 6 Dated: November/December 2008 Pages: 624-631
Date Published
November 2008
8 pages

This study involved the analysis of volatile flammable solvents on common household materials, using a mass spectrometric technique that incorporates a novel ion source, i.e., direct analysis in real time (DART).


The testing found that nylon was a poor substrate for DART detection of gasoline, with the entire signal disappearing in only 2 hours. Unexpectedly, DART easily detected paint thinner on nylon even after 16 hours. DART was effective in all other cases, detecting both paint thinner and gasoline on cotton and drywall substrates for up to 16 hours. The researchers concluded that DART sample detection directly from household materials is not simply due to vapor pressure; rather, direct DART detection is probably dependent on a complex interaction that involves adsorption effects or matrix effects on the ionization mechanism of the flammable solvents. The tested procedure was found to be a potentially simple, powerful, and useful alternative to traditional mass spectrometric analysis. The new ionization method was used to directly volatilize and ionize a solvent sample, which was then sent to a high-resolution mass spectrometer. Researchers analyzed two common flammable solvents, gasoline and paint thinner, directly from cotton, drywall, and nylon materials. DART sampling was done directly from the chemical matrix of the household materials, with no sample preparation needed. The substrates with the flammable solvents were tested to determine the possibility of detecting aromatic and aliphatic solvents from a complex chemical matrix using DART technology. 1 figure, 3 tables, and 7 references

Date Published: November 1, 2008