Journal Published Online: 01 July 2000
Volume 45, Issue 4

Method for Characterization of Adhesion Properties of Trace Explosives in Fingerprints and Fingerprint Simulations



The near inevitable transfer of explosive particulate matter through fingerprints makes it possible to detect concealed explosives through surface sampling. Repeatable and well-characterized fingerprint simulation facilitates quantitative comparison between particulate sampling methods for subsequent detection of trace explosive residues. This study employs a simple, but reproducible sampling system to determine the accuracy of a fingerprint simulation. The sampling system uses a gas jet to entrain particles from a substrate and the resulting airborne particles are then aspirated onto a Teflon filter. A calibrated Barringer IonScan 400 ion mobility spectrometer was used to determine the mass of explosive material collected on the filter. The IonScan 400 was calibrated with known masses of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT). The resulting calibration curve is in good agreement with that obtained by Garofolo et al. (1994) (1) for an earlier model of the instrument. The collection efficiency of the sampling system was measured for three particle sizes (8.0, 10.0, and 13.0 μm) using spherical polystyrene particles laced with known quantities of TNT. Collection efficiency ranged from less than 1% for the larger particles to 5% for the smaller particles. Particle entrainment from the surface was monitored with dark field imaging of the remaining particles. The sampling system was then applied to two C4 test samples—a fingerprint transfer and a dry Teflon transfer. Over 100 ng of RDX was collected from the dry transfer sample, while less than 1 ng was collected from the fingerprint transfer. Possible explanations for this large difference are presented based on the system calibration.

Author Information

Phares, DJ
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
Holt, JK
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
Smedley, GT
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
Flagan, RC
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
Pages: 11
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Stock #: JFS14770J
ISSN: 0022-1198
DOI: 10.1520/JFS14770J