As submitted by the proposer:
Natural and manmade explosive incidents have become increasingly more commonplace with an average of over 4000 incidents occurring per year. In the criminal justice response to such events, the determination of the weight, composition, and epicenter of accidental and malicious explosions is of foremost concern during the post-blast forensic investigation. The proposed research will leverage low-cost 30 scanning, scene reconstruction, and nondestructive evaluation tools to characterize structural and non-structural building components in the post-blast environment that serve as silent "witnesses" to the blast shock wave. This applied research will yield powerful, high fidelity surface reconstruction of scenes that will enhance techniques for estimating important characteristics about the charge size and location, while being as technologically-accessible and user-friendly as conventional photography and videography tools used by current investigators. To complement this disruptive technology, the proposed research will develop the first blast dynamics simulator for post-blast forensic investigation to facilitate physics-based testing of investigator hypotheses against physical evidence. Using computational methods, the project will explore how such simulation codes could be used alongside the low-cost 30 scanning measurements to yield automated routines for reconstructing information on explosive charge weight, composition, and epicenter from deformation, fracture, fragmentation, and debris formation of building components.
The project leverages an existing partnership with the City of Gastonia Police Department and
Bomb Squad to facilitate field experimentation and verification of the proposed technologies and methods at the UNC Charlotte Infrastructure Security and Emergency Responder Research and
Training (ISERRT) Facility. Furthermore, a mature collaborative relationship with the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) will provide a platform for demonstrating the approach in a real-world post-blast investigation course. This unique opportunity also maximizes the dissemination of the research results to 1he criminal justice and law enforcement community to promote technological replacement of current rudimentary, yet scientifically grounded observational techniques. The project will impact criminal justice research and practice by producing 1) a significant experimental dataset evaluating this emerging low-cost technology, 2) software codes and applied validation studies to promote a blast dynamic simulator for post-blast forensics analogous to the Fire Dynamics Simulator used in post-fire forensics, and 3) a method for rapid, automated reconstruction of the explosive characteristics and epicenter from structural and non-structural physical evidence.