- Pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) profiling in post-explosion residues to constitute evidence of crime-scene presence
- Forensic science international
- Volume | Issue number
- 230 | 1-3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS)
Pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) and its degradation products are analyzed to discriminate between residues originating from PETN explosions and residues obtained under other circumstances, such as natural degradation on textile, or after handling intact PETN. The degradation products observed in post-explosion samples were identified using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry as the less-nitrated analogues of PETN: pentaerythritol trinitrate (PETriN), pentaerythritol dinitrate (PEDiN) and pentaerythritol mononitrate (PEMN). Significant levels of these degradation products were observed in post-explosion samples, whereas only very low levels were detected in a variety of intact PETN samples and naturally degraded PETN. No significant degradation was observed after 12 weeks of storage at room temperature and the influence of high relative humidity (90%) was found to be small. Natural degradation was accelerated by storage of small amounts of PETN on different types of textile, resembling the clothing of a suspect, at elevated temperature (333 K). This resulted in significant levels of PETN degradation products, but the relative amounts remained much lower than in post-explosion PETN. For PETriN the peak area relative to PETN was 0.014 (SD = 0.0051) and 0.39 (SD = 0.19) respectively. Based on the peak areas of PETriN, PEDiN and PEMN relative to PETN, it was possible to fully distinguish the post-explosion profiles from the profiles obtained from intact PETN or after (accelerated) natural degradation. Although more data are required to accurately assess the strength of the evidence, this work illustrates that PETN profiling may yield valuable evidence when investigating a possible link between a suspect and post-explosion PETN found on a crime scene. Due to the substantial variation in the degradation pattern between explosion experiments and even between sampling positions in one experiment, the method is not able to distinguish different PETN explosion events. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
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