Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 408, Issue 1, pp 35–47 | Cite as

Advances in explosives analysis—part I: animal, chemical, ion, and mechanical methods

  • Kathryn E. Brown
  • Margo T. Greenfield
  • Shawn D. McGrane
  • David S. MooreEmail author
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. ABC Highlights: authored by Rising Stars and Top Experts


The number and capability of explosives detection and analysis methods have increased substantially since the publication of the Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry special issue devoted to Explosives Analysis (Moore and Goodpaster, Anal Bioanal Chem 395(2):245–246, 2009). Here we review and critically evaluate the latest (the past five years) important advances in explosives detection, with details of the improvements over previous methods, and suggest possible avenues towards further advances in, e.g., stand-off distance, detection limit, selectivity, and penetration through camouflage or packaging. The review consists of two parts. This part, Part I, reviews methods based on animals, chemicals (including colorimetry, molecularly imprinted polymers, electrochemistry, and immunochemistry), ions (both ion-mobility spectrometry and mass spectrometry), and mechanical devices. Part II will review methods based on photons, from very energetic photons including X-rays and gamma rays down to the terahertz range, and neutrons.


Explosives detection Trace analysis Explosives Improvised explosives Instrumentation Reviews 

Explosives glossary


Ammonium nitrate




Dinitrobenzene (isomers 1,3-DNB and 1,4-DNB)


Dinitrotoluene (isomers 2,4-DNT and 2,6-DNT)


1,1-Diamino-2,2-dinitroethene (DADNE)


Homemade explosive


Hexamethylene triperoxide diamine


Octagen; octahydro-1,3,5,7-tetranitro-1,3,5,7-tetrazocine


Improvised explosive device

Picric acid



Nitroglycerine; nitro; glyceryl trinitrate; RNG; trinitroglycerine




Pentaerythritol tetranitrate; 2,2-bis[(nitroxy)methyl]-1,3-propanediol, dinitrate


Cyclonite; hexogen; hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine


Composition of PETN (or RDX and PETN) with heavy oils and rubbers


Triacetone triperoxide




2,4,6-Trinitrotoluene; 2-methyl-1,3,5-trinitrobenzene



Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, for the National Nuclear Security Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC52-06NA25396. The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of this study by Eric Sanders.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no potential conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg (outside the USA) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathryn E. Brown
    • 1
  • Margo T. Greenfield
    • 1
  • Shawn D. McGrane
    • 1
  • David S. Moore
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Shock and Detonation Physics Group, Los Alamos National LaboratoryLos AlamosUSA

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