Unique research uses chemistry to fight terrorism

Unique research uses chemistry to fight terrorism

A Perth-based explosives chemist has won national recognition and financial support for his work identifying the origins of homemade bombs.

The Australian Government’s prestigious National Doctorate Program sees the Department of Education support PhD candidates to undertake industry-focused projects and will fund forensic chemist Robert Dunsmore’s doctoral research at Curtin University, which will be conducted at ChemCentre in Western Australia.

Although there is extensive research into explosives, Mr. Dunsmore’s work is notable because it is among the first to not only investigate the components of homemade explosives, but also attempts to determine the source of those components.

Mr Dunsmore works as a fire and explosives expert at ChemCentre and will use national funding to analyze the primary chemicals used in homemade explosives, to differentiate the source of the materials.

This will allow counter-terrorism agencies to more easily identify perpetrators, track terrorist networks and prevent future attacks.

Dunsmore said his research will address a serious gap in forensic explosives analysis, which is currently limited to identifying the materials used.

“Homemade explosives are used globally for destruction and terrorism – and police and law enforcement agencies rely on explosive analysis to combat the risk of future attacks,” he added.

“This project aims to enhance what we can detect from residual explosive residue – such as being able to tell the difference between samples of the same type of explosive, which may be due to different starting materials.

“The ability to provide this additional information beyond explosive identification will increase police intelligence capabilities, which could include the ability to link an explosives-making component found in one location to explosives found elsewhere.”

Curtin University and ChemCentre are delighted that the Federal Government has awarded Mr Dunsmore a National Industry Doctorate, which also teaches candidates how to best market their research.

Peter McCafferty, ChemCentre’s chief executive, said Mr Dunsmore’s work would enhance the cutting-edge forensic services the organization provides to law enforcement agencies.

“The ChemCentre includes some of Australia’s leading forensic scientists and it is great to see our team’s work receiving national attention,” he said.

“Rob Dunsmore’s work will increase ChemCentre’s ability to perform forensic analyzes of explosives which in turn will provide enhanced capability for law enforcement investigations and counter-terrorism operations.

“We are thrilled to have Rob’s work recognized with a national doctorate.”

Mark Ogden, vice-chancellor of science and engineering at Curtin Pro, said Mr Dunsmore’s research demonstrated the best of the university’s relationship with major industry bodies such as ChemCentre.

He said: “This important project relies on global expertise in the field of forensic medicine and analytical chemistry at the College of Molecular and Life Sciences and the Chemistry Center.”

“The long-standing partnership and collaboration between our two organizations continues to make an impact, and the award of this prestigious National Industry Doctorate Project will add significantly to this.”

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