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Characterization of Nitrated Sugar Alcohols by Atmospheric-Pressure Chemical-Ionization Mass Spectrometry

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Technical Report

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MIT Lincoln Laboratory Lexington United States

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RATIONALE The nitrated sugar alcohols mannitol hexanitrate MHN, sorbitol hexanitrate SHN and xylitol pentanitrate XPN are in the same class of compounds as the powerful military grade explosive pentaerythritol tetranitrate PETN and the homemade explosive erythritol tetranitrate ETN, but unlike PETN and ETN the ways to detect MHN, SHN and XPN by mass spectrometry MS have not been fully investigated. METHODS Atmospheric-pressure chemical-ionization mass spectrometry APCI-MS was used to detect ions characteristic of nitrated sugar alcohols. Time-of-flight APCI mass spectrometry TOF APCI-MS and collisional dissociation mass spectrometry CID MSMS were used for confirmation of each ion assignment. In addition, the use of the chemical ionization reagent dichloromethane was investigated to improve sensitivity and selectivity for MHN, SHN and XPN detection. RESULTS All of the nitrated sugar alcohols studied followed similar fragmentation pathways in the APCI ionization source. MHN, SHN and XPN were detectable as fragment ions formed by the loss of NO2, HNO2, NO3, and CH2NO2 groups, and in the presence of dichloromethane chlorinated adduct ions were observed. It was determined that chlorinated adducts of MHN and SHN had the lowest limits of detection LOD while for XPN the lowest LOD was for detection of the XPN-NO2 fragment ion. CONCLUSION APCI-MS technique provides a selective and sensitive method for the detection of nitrated sugar alcohols. The methods disclosed here will benefit the area of explosives trace detection for counterterrorism and forensics.

Subject Categories:

  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Nuclear Physics and Elementary Particle Physics

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