Source Attribution of the Chemical Warfare Agent Soman Using Position-Specific Isotope Analysis by 2H NMR Spectroscopy: From Precursor to Degradation Product

Anal Chem. 2021 Sep 14;93(36):12230-12236. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.1c01271. Epub 2021 Sep 1.


Position-specific isotope analysis (PSIA) by NMR spectroscopy is a technique that provides quantitative isotopic values for every site-a so-called isotopic fingerprint-of a compound of interest. The isotopic fingerprint can be used to link samples with a common origin or to attribute a synthetic chemical to its precursor source. Despite PSIA by NMR being a powerful tool in chemical forensics, it has not yet been applied on chemical warfare agents (CWAs). In this study, different batches of the CWA Soman were synthesized from three distinctive pinacolyl alcohols (PinOHs). Prior to NMR analysis, the Soman samples were hydrolyzed to the less toxic pinacolyl methylphosphonate (PMP), which is a common degradation product. The PinOHs and PMPs were applied to PSIA by 2H NMR experiments to measure the isotopic distribution of naturally abundant 2H within the pinacolyl moiety. By normalizing the 2H NMR peak areas, we show that the different PinOHs have unique intramolecular isotopic distributions. This normalization method makes the study independent of references and sample concentration. We also demonstrate, for the first time, that the isotopic fingerprint retrieved from PSIA by NMR remains stable during the production and degradation of the CWA. By comparing the intramolecular isotopic profiles of the precursor PinOH with the degradation product PMP, it is possible to attribute them to each other.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chemical Warfare Agents* / analysis
  • Isotopes
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Soman*


  • Chemical Warfare Agents
  • Isotopes
  • Soman