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Advances in Detecting and Identifying Explosives After an Attack

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2024

The author of this article describes two projects that had the goal of helping expand the available tools for investigators in their efforts to develop leads from challenging crime scenes that involved explosives.


This article highlights findings from two National Institute of Justice (NIJ)-funded projects that discussed the reconstruction phase of explosives investigations which aimed to help expand the toolkit available to investigators for developing leads from challenging crime scenes. The first project, funded in fiscal year (FY) 2017, examined the application of a new analytical tool for the traces of explosives, gas chromatography-vacuum UV spectroscopy (GC-VUV); and the second project, funded in FY 2018, investigated whether isotopic signatures of the residues at a blast site could link an explosive charge to its manufacturing source. The author acknowledges the multidisciplinary aspect of investigations involving explosives; he discusses the role of chemical analysis in explosives investigations; and introduces a new tool for explosives analysis, the GC-VUV. The author discusses how the two projects show the potential and the challenges for applying advanced analytical methods to the complex aftermath of an explosion or bombing and encourages more research and development into this field.

Date Published: February 1, 2024