Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



Advisor's Name

Jose R. Almirall

Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Advisor's Name

Kenneth Furton

Advisor's Name

Bruce McCord

Advisor's Name

Jeffrey Joens

Advisor's Name

Krishnaswamy Jayachandran


Smokeless powders, Ion Mobility Spectrometry, Inkjet printing, SPME, Calibration

Date of Defense



Smokeless powder additives are usually detected by their extraction from post-blast residues or unburned powder particles followed by analysis using chromatographic techniques. This work presents the first comprehensive study of the detection of the volatile and semi-volatile additives of smokeless powders using solid phase microextraction (SPME) as a sampling and pre-concentration technique. Seventy smokeless powders were studied using laboratory based chromatography techniques and a field deployable ion mobility spectrometer (IMS). The detection of diphenylamine, ethyl and methyl centralite, 2,4-dinitrotoluene, diethyl and dibutyl phthalate by IMS to associate the presence of these compounds to smokeless powders is also reported for the first time. A previously reported SPME-IMS analytical approach facilitates rapid sub-nanogram detection of the vapor phase components of smokeless powders. A mass calibration procedure for the analytical techniques used in this study was developed. Precise and accurate mass delivery of analytes in picoliter volumes was achieved using a drop-on-demand inkjet printing method. Absolute mass detection limits determined using this method for the various analytes of interest ranged between 0.03 - 0.8 ng for the GC-MS and between 0.03 - 2 ng for the IMS. Mass response graphs generated for different detection techniques help in the determination of mass extracted from the headspace of each smokeless powder. The analyte mass present in the vapor phase was sufficient for a SPME fiber to extract most analytes at amounts above the detection limits of both chromatographic techniques and the ion mobility spectrometer.

Analysis of the large number of smokeless powders revealed that diphenylamine was present in the headspace of 96% of the powders. Ethyl centralite was detected in 47% of the powders and 8% of the powders had methyl centralite available for detection from the headspace sampling of the powders by SPME. Nitroglycerin was the dominant peak present in the headspace of the double-based powders. 2,4-dinitrotoluene which is another important headspace component was detected in 44% of the powders. The powders therefore have more than one headspace component and the detection of a combination of these compounds is achievable by SPME-IMS leading to an association to the presence of smokeless powders.