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Smokeless Powder Reference Collection and SWGFEX Smokeless Powders Database Expansion

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Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2013, $224,841)

In 1998, the National Research Council issued a report "Black and Smokeless Powders: Technologies for Finding Bombs and the Bomb Makers". [1] The NRC report recommended that a comprehensive national powder database be developed, containing information about the physical characteristics and chemical composition of commercially available black and smokeless powders.[1] An agency-independent effort to develop a smokeless powders database did not emerge until 2009, when the National Center for Forensic Science (NCFS) in collaboration with the Scientific Working Group for Fire and Explosions (SWGFEX) began work on an internet-accessible database of analytical information on smokeless powders (http://www.ilrc.ucf.edu/powders/). The database opened in early 2011 with 100 entries of legacy powders, provided by Mr. Ronald Kelly (FBI-retired). Data are available for an additional 600 powders, which need to be entered into the database. The database currently contains 207 entries, including analyses of 87 powders performed at NCFS. Due to limitations on the storage of smokeless powders, it is not possible for NCFS to maintain samples of all the powders in the database to serve as a reference collection of materials that could be provided to forensic laboratories upon request. "The ASCLD/LAB Guidance on Traceability of Measurement Results, Reference Standards and Reference Materials", under review in January 2013, stipulates that reference collections may be maintained by forensic laboratories for identification, comparison or interpretation purposes [2]. Reference collections carry no requirement for traceability; however, the value of a reference collection is enhanced when the samples are cataloged in a larger database and when the properties of samples in the reference collection can be related to other database records. The first objective of this proposal is to analyze 100 new smokeless powders, enter their properties into the SWGFEX/NCFS Smokeless Powders Database and distribute samples of each powder as a "reference collection" to ASCLD/LAB accredited laboratories that perform smokeless powders analysis. The second objective of the proposal is to complete the data entry from 600 legacy samples into the Smokeless Powders Database. The third objective is to compare the properties of the 100 new samples to the legacy samples to establish the value of property-based relationships in estimating the uniqueness of a smokeless powder. At the end of the performance period, the forensic community will have a database containing nearly 900 records for smokeless powders, some of which date back to the 1970s, a reference collection of smokeless powders to utilize in casework, and a statistical framework to aid in interpreting the uniqueness and evidentiary weight of casework samples. ca/ncf
Date Created: August 29, 2013