April 2, 2017
News Release

CSI: Chemical Weapons and Illicit Drugs


Carlos Fraga and colleagues at PNNL are working on chemical forensics to identify the sources of chemical weapons that may lead to catching and convicting perpetrators of chemical attacks.

Reports of incidents involving chemical warfare agents and other weaponized toxic chemicals continue to make headlines. Highly specialized analysis of residues can be a means of providing evidence to convict perpetrators of chemical attacks. Similar techniques can also help bring illicit drug traffickers to justice.

This burgeoning field of chemical forensics research is the topic of a symposium organized by Carlos Fraga and colleagues at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Several scientists from PNNL and other institutions will discuss new methods and approaches at the American Chemical Society's national meeting in San Francisco April 2-6.

Many of the source materials in threat agents or drugs have telltale signatures, like impurities for instance, that can help identify its origins, and help investigators, prosecutors and intelligence agencies prosecute or potentially even thwart a chemical attack or drug trafficking.

As part of the two day symposium starting April 3, PNNL researchers will discuss chemical attribution signatures, defensibility of chemical threat detection, impurity profiling for sarin precursors, aquatic toxins and position-specific stable isotope ratio measurement for chemical forensics.

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