Rapid forensic chemical classification of confiscated flash banger fireworks using capillary electrophoresis

Karlijn D. B. Bezemer, Lara V. A. van Duin, Carlos Martin-Alberca, Govert W. Somsen, Peter J. Schoenmakers, Rob Haselberg, Arian C. van Asten

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In the Netherlands, the illegal use of powerful flash bangers is popular and as a result these items are frequently encountered in forensic casework. In collaboration with the Dutch police a representative sample set of the most frequently confiscated flash bangers, the Cobra 6 and Cobra 6 2G, has previously been collected also including imitation items. Classification of the different flash bangers was performed by analysing the pyrotechnic charge using capillary electrophoresis (CE) with indirect UV-detection. Two rapid CE methods were used to determine the anions and cations present in the pyrotechnic mixtures. Black and flash powders were easily distinguishable based on their main inorganic compositions, i.e., KNO3 and KClO4, respectively. Differentiation of flash powders from the commercial and imitation pyrotechnic items was achieved by the identification of Ca2+ and Mg2+ cation traces in the imitation flash banger powders. Quantitative CE results were used to explore the possibilities to differentiate seized sets of flash bangers but this proved to be difficult for commercial items due to lack of impurities and uniform production processes. In addition, inherent inhomogeneity of the powders and incomplete sample extraction yielded a relative high measurement uncertainty within a set. For the imitation items potential for set-based differentiation was observed. Although the number of seized imitation sets was limited, a first step has been taken to classify pyrotechnic mixtures to provide additional information and intelligence in forensic casework of flash bangers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100187
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalForensic Chemistry
Early online date13 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


The authors are grateful for all technical support provided by ing. T. Aalbers from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the members of the Dutch Firework Taskforce. The authors thank the PyroProf Project, which is funded by the European Commission by the H2020 program/Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions under number MCSA-747249 . This work was commissioned by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism of the Netherlands (NCTV) and funded through the Internal Security Fund (ISF) of the European Union.

FundersFunder number
Dutch Firework Taskforce
H2020 program/Marie Sk?odowska
National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism of the Netherlands
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme747249
H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie ActionsMCSA-747249
Internal Security Fund - Police
European Commission
Universiteit van Amsterdam


    • Capillary electrophoresis
    • Fireworks
    • Flash bangers
    • Flash powder
    • Pyrotechnics


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