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Novel method to detect, trace homemade bombs

A new method of detecting homemade explosives will help forensic experts trace where they came from, scientists said Friday.

The approach, described in the journal Analytica Chimica Acta, uses ion chromatography -- high resolution mass spectrometry.

Scientists at King's College London Northumbria University in the UK found that using this technique, they can detect a very large number of components of homemade explosives down to very low trace amounts.

Homemade explosives are frequently used in a number of different crimes, including ATM robberies.

They have traditionally been very challenging to detect and trace in samples submitted for forensic analysis.

"The method we developed is less time consuming and represents a viable solution for challenging explosives like these," said Matteo Gallidabino from King's College London.

"By combining this approach with advanced data analytics, added intelligence can be retrieved from any evidence recovered," Gallidabino said.

"This has the potential to significantly impact criminal investigations and further enhance the role of forensics in the administration of justice," he said.

The team successfully went on to use the new approach to interpret the time since explosives materials were handled by the original maker, analysing sweat.

They were also able to analyse gunshot residue to trace the type of ammunition used.

"The technique is able to tell us so much more than just the explosives content," Leon Barron from King's College London said.

"It detects thousands of different compounds simultaneously, which means there is an element of in-built future-proofing capability to detect new types of explosives if needed or provide critical information about where a device came from or who it belongs to," said Barron.