Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Bruce McCord

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Kevin O'Shea

Third Advisor's Name

William Hearn

Fourth Advisor's Name

John Berry

Fifth Advisor's Name

DeEtta Mills


Forensic Science, Smokeless Powder, Organic Gunshot Residue, Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography, Tandem Mass Spectrometry, Electrospray Ionization, Atmospheric Pressure Chemical Ionization, Diphenylamine, Dinitrotoluene, Nitroglycerin

Date of Defense



The goal of this project was to develop a rapid separation and detection method for analyzing organic compounds in smokeless powders and then test its applicability on gunshot residue (GSR) samples. In this project, a total of 20 common smokeless powder additives and their decomposition products were separated by ultra performance liquid chromatography (UPLC) and confirmed by tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) using multiple reaction monitoring mode (MRM). Some of the targeted compounds included diphenylamines, centralites, nitrotoluenes, nitroglycerin, and various phthalates. The compounds were ionized in the MS source using simultaneous positive and negative electrospray ionization (ESI) with negative atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI) in order to detect all compounds in a single analysis. The developed UPLC/MS/MS method was applied to commercially available smokeless powders and gunshot residue samples recovered from the hands of shooters, spent cartridges, and smokeless powder retrieved from unfired cartridges. Distinct compositions were identified for smokeless powders from different manufacturers and from separate manufacturing lots. The procedure also produced specific chemical profiles when tested on gunshot residues from different manufacturers. Overall, this thesis represents the development of a rapid and reproducible procedure capable of simultaneously detecting the widest possible range of components present in organic gunshot residue.





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