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Hypergolic mixtures involve a chemical reaction between an oxidant and a fuel source. These reactions are self-igniting and can be performed using common household materials. The ease of access to the reactants, and delayed ignition have increased the occurrence of hypergolic mixtures in arson-related crimes and incendiary devices. Currently, few chemical signatures exist to link hypergolic residues to a perpetrator. This makes it difficult to obtain forensically relevant information from evidence during an investigation. A hypergolic reaction of interest to forensic laboratories involves combustion between a glycol-based fuel source and potassium permanganate. Past studies have determined that one can distinguish between the oxidant and fuel used in a reaction based upon the composition of the residues or the extent of the reaction. The aim of this study is to determine the forensic signatures of reactions involving varying glycol fuel sources: brake fluid and antifreeze. Elemental profiles of residues were created using Inductively Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectroscopy. Results showed that the metal composition of a residue sample was valuable in distinguishing between possible glycol fuel sources in hypergolic reactions, and that the ratio of oxidant to fuel source had minimal effect on the metal composition.
Forensic Science, Chemistry
Hypergolic, potassium permanganate, glycol fuel, spontaneous combustion, ICP-OES, trace elements
Analytical Chemistry | Other Chemistry
Current Academic Year
Christopher Ehrhardt, Ph.D.
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