Forensic science international

Evaluation of vapor profiles of explosives over time using ATASS (Automated Training Aid Simulation using SPME).

PMID 21696900


Despite numerous instrumental achievements, canines are still considered the most effective field method for explosive detection. However, due to strict explosive regulations and safety requirements, it can be a challenge for agencies with "bomb dogs" to train using neat explosive materials. This establishes a need for non-explosive canine training aids with the same volatile component profiles as the explosives that they represent. In order to compare mimic materials to their explosive counterparts, a technique must be established that not only allows for identification of volatile compounds but also can monitor changes in the headspace profile over time with respect to time and temperature. The Automated Training Aid Simulation using SPME (or ATASS) was developed for that purpose. As described, ATASS was used to observe changes in the volatile profile of three explosives (Composition C-4, 2,4-dinitrotoluene (DNT), and triacetone triperoxide (TATP)) and respective prototype training materials (0.1% by mass C-4, 1% by mass 2,4-DNT, and 1% by mass TATP). Samples were prepared in vials and metal tins within a gallon (≈ 3785 mL) paint can to simulate common field techniques for canine training. Monitoring these materials in real time provides a better understanding of the major volatile components present and how the relative abundances of these components can change over time. The results presented indicate that ATASS successfully allows for a sufficient comparison between explosive and non-explosive training materials.