New test can trace nerve agents to their source

Researchers in the United States have developed a new test that could help track down terrorists by analyzing the chemical traces left by nerve agents.

A terrorist attack using nerve agents, such as sarin, is considered a major potential threat, and although traces of these types of substances would remain after their use, there has been no practical way to identify their source, according to UPI.

Researchers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, recently announced that they have developed a technology that would allow law enforcement officials to trace the residue from chemical agents used in terrorist attack back to where they were obtained.

A report published in the journal Analytical Chemistry said that samples found at the scene of attack can be matched to their sources by identifying impurities that would be unique to the chemicals used. Researcher Carlos Fraga calls the method "impurity profiling."

Up to 88 percent of the impurities found in source chemicals for sarin can end up in the finished product, and according to Fraga, are unique to each sample like a fingerprint, reports.

In tests that utilized only standard laboratory instruments, the team was able to correctly identify the starting materials used in two different batches of sarin using the new method.