Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

José R. Almirall

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Kenneth Furton

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

William Kinzy Jones

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Bruce McCord

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Kathleen Rein

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


Gunshot residue, Capillary Microextraction of Volatiles, GC-MS, LIBS

Date of Defense



Gunshot residue (GSR) is the term used to describe the particles originating from different parts of the firearm and ammunition during the discharge. A fast and practical field tool to detect the presence of GSR can assist law enforcement in the accurate identification of subjects.

A novel field sampling device is presented for the first time for the fast detection and quantitation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The capillary microextraction of volatiles (CMV) is a headspace sampling technique that provides fast results (< 2 min. sampling time) and is reported as a versatile and high-efficiency sampling tool. The CMV device can be coupled to a Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) instrument by installation of a thermal separation probe in the injection port of the GC.

An analytical method using the CMV device was developed for the detection of 17 compounds commonly found in polluted environments. The acceptability of the CMV as a field sampling method for the detection of VOCs is demonstrated by following the criteria established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compendium method TO-17.

The CMV device was used, for the first time, for the detection of VOCs on swabs from the hands of shooters, and non-shooters and spent cartridges from different types of ammunition (i.e., pistol, rifle, and shotgun). The proposed method consists in the headspace extraction of VOCs in smokeless powders present in the propellant of ammunition. The sensitivity of this method was demonstrated with method detection limits (MDLs) 4-26 ng for diphenylamine (DPA), nitroglycerine (NG), 2,4-dinitrotoluene (2,4-DNT), and ethyl centralite (EC).

In addition, a fast method was developed for the detection of the inorganic components (i.e., Ba, Pb, and Sb) characteristic of GSR presence by Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS). Advantages of LIBS include fast analysis (~ 12 seconds per sample) and good sensitivity, with expected MDLs in the range of 0.1-20 ng for target elements.

Statistical analysis of the results using both techniques was performed to determine any correlation between the variables analyzed. This work demonstrates that the information collected from the analysis of organic components has the potential to improve the detection of GSR.





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