Proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry for the sensitive and rapid real-time detection of solid high explosives in air and water
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Relying on recent developments in proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry (PTR-MS), we demonstrate here the capability of detecting solid explosives in air and in water in real time. Two different proton transfer reaction mass spectrometers have been used in this study. One is the PTR-TOF 8000, which has an enhanced mass resolution (m/Δm up to 8,000) and high sensitivity (~50 cps/ppbv). The second is the high-sensitivity PTR-MS, which has an improved limit of detection of about several hundreds of parts per quadrillion by volume and is coupled with a direct aqueous injection device. These instruments have been successfully used to identify and monitor the solid explosive 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) by analysing on the one hand the headspace above small quantities of samples at room temperature and from trace quantities not visible to the naked eye placed on surfaces (also demonstrating the usefulness of a simple pre-concentration and thermal desorption technique) and by analysing on the other hand trace compounds in water down to a level of about 100 pptw. The ability to identify even minute amounts of threat compounds, such as explosives, particularly within a complex chemical environment, is vital to the fight against crime and terrorism and is of paramount importance for the appraisal of the fate and harmful effects of TNT at marine ammunition dumping sites and the detection of buried antipersonnel and antitank landmines.
KeywordsPTR-MS Trace compound detection Explosives TNT Direct aqueous injection
CAM wishes to acknowledge the EPSRC (EP/E027571/1). Work was partially supported by the Leopold Franzens Universität, Innsbruck, the Ionicon Analytik GmbH, Innsbruck, the FWF and FFG, Wien and the European Commission, Brussels. FP acknowledges the support of the Community under a Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnership and Pathways (Grant Agreement Number 218065).
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