On-site colorimetric methods are a valuable, cost-effective tool to assess the nature and extent of contamination in remediated sites and to enable on-site screening for police criminology laboratories. The existing colorimetric method for cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine (RDX) based on a Griess reaction suffers from the non-quantitative reduction to nitrite and from the unstable character of HNO2in acidic medium. Thus we propose a novel spectrophotometric RDX assay in explosive mixtures and residues, based on (Zn + HCl) reduction of RDX in a microwave oven, followed by neutralization of the reduction products to ammonia and low molecular-weight amines, and Berthelot reaction of these amine-compounds with phenol and hypochlorite in alkaline medium to give an intensely blue indophenol dye absorbing at 631 nm. The molar absorptivity and limit of detection (LOD) for RDX were (1.08 ± 0.04) × 104L mol-1cm-1and 0.18 mg L-1, respectively. Application of the method to synthetic mixture solutions of RDX and trinitrotoluene (TNT) at varying proportions showed that there was minimal interference from TNT (which could be compensated for by dicyclohexylamine colorimetry), since the Berthelot reaction was essentially non-responsive to m-substituted anilines derived from TNT upon (Zn + HCl) reduction. The proposed method was successfully applied to military-purpose explosive mixtures of (RDX + inert matter) such as Comp A5, Comp C4, and Hexal P30, and to (RDX + TNT) mixtures such as Comp B. The molar absorptivity of RDX was much higher than that of either ammonium or nitrate; RDX could be effectively separated from ammonium and nitrate in soil mixtures, based on solubility differences. The Berthelot method for RDX was statistically validated using Comp B mixtures against standard HPLC equipped with a Hypersil C-18 column with (40% MeOH-60% H2O) mobile phase, and against gas chromatography-thermal energy analysis (GC-TEA) system. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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