5 years ago

Elemental source attribution signatures for calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) fertilizers used in homemade explosives

Elemental source attribution signatures for calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) fertilizers used in homemade explosives
Calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) is a widely available fertilizer composed of ammonium nitrate (AN) mixed with some form of calcium carbonate such as limestone or dolomite. CAN is also frequently used to make homemade explosives. The potential of using elemental profiling and chemometrics to match both pristine and reprocessed CAN fertilizers to their factories of origin for use in future forensic investigations was examined. Inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) was used to determine the concentrations of 64 elements in 125 samples from 11 CAN stocks from 6 different CAN factories. Using Fisher ratio and degree-of-class-separation, the elements Na, V, Mn, Cu, Ga, Sr, Ba and U were selected for classification of the CAN samples into 5 factory groups; one group was two factories from the same fertilizer company. Partial least squares discriminant analysis (PLSDA) was used to develop a classification model which was tested on a separate set of samples. The test set included samples that were analyzed at a different time period and samples from factory stocks that were not part of the training set. For pristine CAN samples, i.e., unadulterated prills, 73% of the test samples were matched to their correct factory group with the remaining 27% undetermined using strict classification. The same PLSDA model was used to correctly match all CAN samples that were reprocessed by mixing with powdered sugar. For CAN samples that were reprocessed by mixing with aluminum or by extraction of AN with tap or bottled water, correct classification was observed for one factory group, but source matching was confounded with adulterant interference for two other factories. The elemental signatures of the water-insoluble (calcium carbonate) portions of CAN provided a greater degree of discrimination between factories than the water-soluble portions of CAN. In summary, this work illustrates the strong potential for matching unadulterated CAN fertilizer samples to their manufacturing facility using elemental profiling and chemometrics. The effectiveness of this method for source determination of reprocessed CAN is dependent on how much an adulterant alters the recovered elemental profile of CAN.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0039914017305957

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