Analysis of Low Explosives

Course Details


Low explosives (black powder, smokeless powder, or pyrotechnics) are the most commonly used energetic materials for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the US. This course addresses the identification and analysis of low explosives in pre-blast and post-blast evidence using simple wet chemical tests, macroscopical and microscopical methods (microchemical tests) to efficiently process evidence from bomb scenes. Using the approach of “work to exclude”, the student will learn how to process the bomb scene debris quickly and correctly to eliminate possible explosive residues and particles. More involved sample preparation and instrumental methods can then be applied for confirming the type of explosive used. This course is intended for criminalists who are currently or will be analyzing bomb debris and devices.

  • Explosives and explosion dynamics
  • Parts of an improvised explosive device
  • Scene investigation and evidence recovery
  • Examination of post-blast debris
  • Lab exercise: debris recognition and device reconstruction
  • Chemistry of explosives
  • Analysis of intact low explosives
  • Lab exercise: ignition susceptibility, flame tests, spot tests,
  • Microchemical tests for cations and anions
  • Lab exercise: differentiation of black powders and black powder (BP) substitutes
  • Lab exercise: post-blast identification of black powder, BP substitutes and pyrotechniques
  • Smokeless powder analysis
  • Instrumental methods (GCMS, HPLC, FTIR) for identification of organic explosives.
  • Lab exercise: particle size and shape, single vs. double base by TLC
  • Detection of devices
  • Tour of facilities
  • Wrap up and evaluation
  • Learn techniques for examination of post-blast debris for determination of low explosives using microscopic and simple chemical tests used to efficiently process the evidence.
  • Recognize the various remnants of various components found in improvised explosive devices which may aid in developing a “bombers signature” and investigative leads.

Criminalists who are working with trace evidence, especially post-blast debris.

All instrumentation, materials, and supplies necessary for successful completion of this course will be provided onsite by Hooke College of Applied Sciences.

  • Essentials of Polarized Light Microscopy and Ancillary Techniques by John Gustav Delly
  • Explosives Identification Guide by Mick Picket (ISBN 0-7668-0490-9)
  • Forensic Chemistry Handbook ed. by Lawrence Kobilinsky (ISBN 978-0-471-73954-8)
  • Forensic Investigation of Explosions ed. by Alexander Beveridge (ISBN 0-7484-0565-8)
  • Practical Bomb Scene Investigation (2nd ed), James Thurman (ISBN 978-1-4398-1959-3)
  • Olympus BX51 microscope with polarized light capabilities
  • Olympus stereomicroscope
  • The McCrone Atlas of Microscopic Particles, a free online reference aid to substance identification
  • Modern Microscopy, a free, peer-reviewed online journal for the professional microscopist
  • Experience with PLM
  • Undergraduate science background

Students are expected to successfully complete a variety of tasks in the form of hands-on exercises, laboratory exercises, identifications of unknowns, and quizzes. Students are notified at the end of the course whether or not they have successfully completed the requirements of the course based on:

  • 100% Attendance
  • Class participation
  • Completion of all course material
  • Completed and signed student evaluation form

Upon successfully meeting these requirements, a student is awarded a certificate of completion and CEU credits, if available. Those who have not successfully passed the course requirements do not receive a certificate or CEU credits.

Upcoming Dates


August 6, 2019 - August 7, 2019
$1895
T - W | 8am - 5pm
Instructor: Graham Rankin
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