Fast detection and characterization of organic and inorganic gunshot residues on the hands of suspects by CMV-GC-MS and LIBS

Sci Justice. 2015 May;55(3):168-75. doi: 10.1016/j.scijus.2015.02.003. Epub 2015 Mar 13.


A rapid method for the characterization of both organic and inorganic components of gunshot residues (GSR) is proposed as an alternative tool to facilitate the identification of a suspected shooter. In this study, two fast screening methods were developed and optimized for the detection of organic compounds and inorganic components indicative of GSR presence on the hands of shooters and non-shooters. The proposed methods consist of headspace extraction of volatile organic compounds using a capillary microextraction of volatiles (CMV) device previously reported as a high-efficiency sampler followed by detection by GC-MS. This novel sampling technique has the potential to yield fast results (<2min sampling) and high sensitivity capable of detecting 3ng of diphenylamine (DPA) and 8ng of nitroglycerine (NG). Direct analysis of the headspace of over 50 swabs collected from the hands of suspected shooters (and non-shooters) provides information regarding VOCs present on their hands. In addition, a fast laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) screening method for the detection of the inorganic components indicative of the presence of GSR (Sb, Pb and Ba) is described. The sampling method for the inorganics consists of liquid extraction of the target elements from the same cotton swabs (previously analyzed for VOCs) and an additional 30 swab samples followed by spiking 1μL of the extract solution onto a Teflon disk and then analyzed by LIBS. Advantages of LIBS include fast analysis (~12s per sample) and high selectivity and sensitivity, with expected LODs 0.1-18ng for each of the target elements after sampling. The analytical performance of the LIBS method is also compared to previously reported methods (inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectroscopy). The combination of fast CMV sampling, unambiguous organic compound identification with GC-MS and fast LIBS analysis provides the basis for a new comprehensive screening method for GSR.

Keywords: Capillary microextraction of volatiles; GSR; Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry; Gunshot residue; Laser induced breakdown spectroscopy; Thermal separation probe.