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Forensic utility of isotope ratio analysis of the explosive urea nitrate and its precursors.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  20729019     Owner:  NLM     Status:  In-Data-Review    
Abstract/OtherAbstract:
Urea nitrate (UN) is an improvised explosive made from readily available materials. The carbon and nitrogen isotope composition of UN and its component ions, urea and nitrate, could aid in a forensic investigation. A method was developed to separate UN into its component ions for δ(15)N measurements by dissolving the sample with KOH, drying the sample, followed by removal of the urea by dissolution into 100% methanol. UN was synthesized to assess for preservation of the carbon and nitrogen isotope compositions of reactants (urea and nitric acid) and product UN. Based on nitrogen isotope mass balance, all UN samples contained varying amounts of excess nitric acid, making the ionic separation an essential step in the nitrogen isotope analysis. During UN synthesis experiments, isotopic composition of the reactants is preserved in the product UN, but the urea in the product UN is slightly enriched in (15)N (<1‰) relative to the reactant urea. Published isotopic compositions of UN reactants, urea and nitric acid, have large ranges (urea δ(15)N=-10.8 to +3.3‰; urea δ(13)C=-18.2 to -50.6‰; and nitric acid δ(15)N=-1.8 to +4.0‰). The preservation of isotopic composition of reactants in UN, along with a significant variability in isotopic composition of reactants, indicates that isotope ratio analysis may be used to test if urea or nitric acid collected during an investigation is a possible reactant for a specific UN sample. The carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios differ significantly between two field-collected UN samples, as well as the lab-synthesized UN samples. These observed variations suggest that this approach is useful for discriminating between materials which are otherwise chemically identical.
Authors:
Roman Aranda; Libby A Stern; Marianne E Dietz; Meghan C McCormick; Jason A Barrow; Robert F Mothershead
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article     Date:  2010-08-21
Journal Detail:
Title:  Forensic science international     Volume:  206     ISSN:  1872-6283     ISO Abbreviation:  Forensic Sci. Int.     Publication Date:  2011 Mar 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2011-03-14     Completed Date:  -     Revised Date:  -    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  7902034     Medline TA:  Forensic Sci Int     Country:  Ireland    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  143-9     Citation Subset:  IM    
Copyright Information:
Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd.
Affiliation:
Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Quantico, VA 22135, United States.
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