The use of serface fuintionalised silica nano-particlate powders for the identification of gunshot residues from fingerprints

Alrashidi, Mohammad (2014) The use of serface fuintionalised silica nano-particlate powders for the identification of gunshot residues from fingerprints. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Gunshot residue (GSR) mixture consists of partially burned particles of propellant and characteristic particles of elements originating from the primer, bullet, propellant and some additives in the propellant. Since Harrison and Gillory [1] drew forensic scientists’ attention to the fact that GSR contained trace amounts of inorganic compounds such as lead, barium and antimony, a number of analytical techniques have been tested trying to find and establish sensitive, selective and reliable methods to identify and analyse gunshot residues. The standard procedure for the analysis of gunshot residues involves imaging these small metallic particles using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and subsequent compositional analysis using Energy Dispersive X-ray Analysis (EDX).

This study focuses on the analysis organic compounds in GSR. It is motivated by the increasing need to overcome the problems with the analysis of lead-free ammunitions. A comprehensive literature review was performed in order to determine the most commonly encountered organic compounds in GSR. These compounds include diphenylamine, methylcentralite, ethylcentralite, nitroglycerine, 2-nitrodiphenylamine and 4-nitrodiphenylamine. It has been clearly demonstrated using standard materials and appropriate calibration curves that gas chromatograph and mass spectrometry (GC/MS) is capable of providing limits of detection that are consistent with the concentrations of the key organic constituents found in gunshot residues. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that the relative concentrations of seven key components can be used to provide branding information on the shotgun cartridges.

A strong relationship was found between the chemical composition of fired and unfired powder. Therefore, it is possible to differentiate between two ammunition brands through the analysis of the organic constituents.

Traditional fingerprint powders such as titanium dioxide, aluminium, carbon black, iron oxide, lycopodium spores and rosin are used to enhance fingerprint left at the scene of crime. More recently nanoparticles have been demonstrated to be highly effective for the enhancement of the fingerprints [2].

Silica nano-particulates of defined size and shape were synthesised and functionalised with two different functional groups (phenyl and long chain hydrocarbon) using a Tri- phasic Reverse Emulsion (TPRE) method. These nano-particulates were characterised using scan electron microscope (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), elemental analysis, particles size analyser, BET surface area and solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. These powders were used as an effective agent to visualise latent fingerprints on different surfaces. Furthermore, they have been utilised to absorb any organic materials within the fingerprint from the discharged of weapon. Analyses of the adsorbed organic residues were performed using GC/MS and Raman spectroscopy.

The results showed that the synthesised silica nano-particulate fingerprint powder gave better result in term of their ability to absorb organic materials in GSR and enhance the visualisation of the latent fingerprint compared to a single commercial powder.

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