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Viable, Affordable, and Meaningful Integration of Organic and Inorganic Analysis of Firearms Discharge Residue

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $212,875)

As submitted by the proposer: The discharge of a firearm produces a wealth of physical and chemical evidence. Unfortunately, such evidence is not exploited as fully as it could be in light of advances in analytical instrumentation available to forensic laboratories. The ability to integrate the characterization of organics into a firearms discharge residue analysis scheme would address limitations that arise from focusing on inorganic particulates from the primer. This proposal, building on literature studies and a significant body of work in our research group, will provide novel, practical, and affordable method for analyzing the full complement of firearms discharge residue to include organic and inorganic components from the propellant and primers. Orthogonal analytical methods will increase the utility and reliability of the evidence produced and the integrated methods will provide options for presumptive as well as confirmatory analysis. Specifically we will study, evaluate and as appropriate, validate 3 protocols for integration of organic compound analysis into the analytical scheme for firearms discharge residue. All protocols are based on instrumentation, equipment, and expertise that is currently available in most forensic laboratories. Three common sampling media will be evaluated – aluminum stubs, swabs, and wipes. Confirmation of organic constituents will be based mass spectrometry. Two of the protocols will employ thermal desorption for sample introduction into GC/MS instrumentation. This method has been thoroughly vetted in the literature and by recent work in our laboratory and has the advantages of simplicity and low cost. The third protocol (the most novel) utilizes microextraction using solvents and complexing agents coupled to triple quadrupole mass spectrometry to detect both organic and inorganic constituents. Preliminary data supporting the viability of this method is included in the proposal. This proposal falls under applied research and development and addresses a specific need of the forensic science and criminal justice community - improving the evidentiary value firearms discharge residue. A strength of the project is an emphasis on translation as well as dissemination. During the last year of the project, we will develop training materials and courses that will be available to laboratories and practitioners through an existing infrastructure of on- line courses, on-campus, and on-site training options. Including this as a fundamental aspect of the project will insure that dissemination does not end when the project does. The project will require two years to complete and will involve doctoral, masters, and undergraduate students. This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law. ca/ncf
Date Created: September 16, 2015