The persistent risks posed by military conflicts and terrorism raise concerns about the potential misuse of chemical weapons. Recently, the world was shocked by the news that a former Russian agent and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent in Salisbury, England.1 Apart from identifying the specific chemical involved, determining its origin holds importance to accurately reconstruct the events and hold responsible parties and institutions accountable. Recently, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been granted a new mandate to conduct attribution investigations after an alleged incident with chemical weapons. This of course has important implications for the work of the designated laboratories assisting the OPCW, including TNO.2

"The continuing threats of military conflicts and terrorism may involve the misuse of chemical weapons."

To date only a limited number of laboratory studies have been carried out to match the chemical warfare agents or chemical threat agents to its starting materials, because of technical difficulties associated with this and the lack of suitable forensic methods. Therefore, it would be very valuable when chemical profiling approaches could be applied to a broad scope of chemical warfare agents and related compounds. Moreover, it would be desirable to gain even more forensic information from such samples, to support (national or military) intelligence purposes. The overall goal of this PhD project on Forensic Attribution for CWA INtelliGence (FACING) is to develop multi-analytical profiling strategies for chemical warfare agents and associated devices for forensic intelligence purposes.

“It would be desirable to gain more forensic information from samples to support intelligence purposes.”

The FACING project is a collaboration between the Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS) of the University of Amsterdam and TNO Defence, Safety & Security. The FACING project is financed by the DO-AIO fund of the Dutch Ministry of Defence.


Cover image: © OPCW