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Vapor Phase Explosives Detection Technology

Battelle Number(s): 30071-E
Patent(s) Issued
Available for licensing in all fields
  • Schematic of new explosives vapor detection system.

  • Example (using RDX) of new explosives vapor detection system. Note the substantially enhanced RDX signal for the patent pending system shown in the first spectrum compared to the baseline signal shown in the lower spectrum.

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SUMMARY

Current state-of-the-art trace detection of explosives requires physical swipes obtained from surfaces to be introduced into an instrument for analysis. Challenges with physical sampling include high consumable costs, sample reproducibility due to human error, and perceived invasiveness. In addition, current methods provide limited levels of detection. For these reasons, vapor analysis has long been a goal for modern instrument platforms. The ability to selectively detect low levels of explosive compounds in the vapor phase could significantly reduce our nation’s vulnerability to attacks using such compounds. A new technology designed to work in conjunction with mass spectrometry offers the potential to do this. 

The new technology incorporates a reaction tube at ambient pressure in which selective ion chemistry is performed.  The technology is able to limit reactions of benign elements while enhancing reactions of specific elements known to be present in explosives. Detection limits of RDX are below 50ppqv (1 in 1015 molecules) from a vapor source of RDX at room temperature that was diluted by a ratio of 1:200. A typical analysis requires only a few seconds to perform. Baggage and cargo screening are currently the targeted application for the technology, but several others are possible.

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