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Accumulation of Explosives in Hair—Part 3: Binding Site Study


  • Funded by Oklahoma City Memorial Institute for Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT), NATO Science for Peace, and the “Center for Security Science and Technology Research Centers” at the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology.

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Jimmie C. Oxley, Ph.D.
Chemistry Department
University of Rhode Island
Kingston, RI 02881


Abstract:  This study extends previous work on the sorption of explosives to the hair matrix. Specifically, we have studied the interaction of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) and triacetone triperoxide (TATP) as a function of chemical pretreatment with acetonitrile, neutral and alkaline hydrogen peroxide, methanolic KOH and potassium permanganate, and the morphological changes that accompany these treatments. While differences in vapor pressure can account for quantitative differences between TNT and TATP sorption, both are markedly affected by the chemical rinses. Examination of the hair surface shows different degrees of smoothening following rinsing, suggesting that the attachment to hair is largely a surface phenomenon involving the 18-methyleicosanoic acid lipid layer. Density functional theory calculations were employed to explore possible nucleation sites of TATP microcrystals on the hair. We conclude that some of the sites on melanin granular surfaces may support nucleation of TATP microcrystals. Moreover, the calculations support the experimental finding that dark hair adsorbs explosives better than light hair.