Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Method For Detecting Explosives

Date:
March 20, 2009
Source:
American Institute of Physics
Summary:
Scientists have discovered a way to sensitively detect explosives based on the physical properties of their vapors. Their technology is currently being developed into prototype devices for field testing.

A group of researchers in Tennessee and Denmark has discovered a way to sensitively detect explosives based on the physical properties of their vapors. Their technology, which is currently being developed into prototype devices for field testing, is described in the latest issue of the journal Review of Scientific Instruments, which is published by the American Institute of Physics (AIP).

Related Articles


"Certain classes of explosives have unique thermal characteristics that help to identify explosive vapors in presence of other vapors," says Thomas Thundat, a researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the University of Tennessee who conducted the research with his colleagues at ORNL and the Technical University of Denmark.

In their paper, the scientists show that their technology is capable of trace detection of explosives. They also show that it is capable of distinguishing between explosive and non-explosive chemicals and of differentiating between individual explosives, such as TNT, PETN, and RDX.

Thundat and others have been working on explosive sensors for years. Typical sensors use ion mobility spectrometers, which ionize tiny amounts of chemicals and measure how fast they move through an electric field. While these instruments are fast, sensitive, and reliable, they are also expensive and bulky, leading many researchers in the last few years to try to find a cheaper, more portable device for detecting explosives.

Much of this research focuses on "micromechanical" devices -- tiny sensors that have microscopic probes on which airborne chemical vapors deposit. When the right chemicals find the surface of the sensors, they induce tiny mechanical motions, and those motions create electronic signals that can be measured.

These devices are relatively inexpensive to make and can sensitively detect explosives, but they often have the drawback that they cannot discriminate between similar chemicals -- the dangerous and the benign. They may detect a trace amount of TNT, for instance, but they may not be able to distinguish that from a trace amount of gasoline.

Seeking to make a better micromechanical sensor, Thundat and his colleagues realized they could detect explosives selectively and with extremely high sensitivity by building sensors that probed the thermal signatures of chemical vapors.

They started with standard micromechanical sensors -- devices with microscopic cantilevers beams supported at one end. They modified the cantilevers so that they could be electronically heated by passing a current through them. Next they allowed air to flow over the sensors. If explosive vapors were present in the air, they could be detected when molecules in the vapor clung to the cantilevers.

Then by heating the cantilevers in a fraction of a second, they could discriminate between explosives and non-explosives. All the explosives they tested responded with unique and reproducible thermal response patterns within a split second of heating. In their paper, Thundat and his colleagues demonstrate that they could detect very small amounts of adsorbed explosives -- with a limit of 600 picograms (a picogram is a trillionth of a gram). They are now improving the sensitivity and making a prototype device, which they expect to be ready for field testing later this year.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Institute of Physics. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Senesac et al. Micro-differential thermal analysis detection of adsorbed explosive molecules using microfabricated bridges. Review of Scientific Instruments, 2009; 80 (3): 035102 DOI: 10.1063/1.3090881

Cite This Page:

American Institute of Physics. "New Method For Detecting Explosives." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090313150117.htm>.
American Institute of Physics. (2009, March 20). New Method For Detecting Explosives. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090313150117.htm
American Institute of Physics. "New Method For Detecting Explosives." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090313150117.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) Toyota presented its hydrogen fuel-cell compact car called "Mirai" to US consumers at the Los Angeles auto show. The car should go on sale in 2015 for around $60.000. It combines stored hydrogen with oxygen to generate its own power. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) In a blog post, Google said its balloons have traveled 3 million kilometers since the start of Project Loon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Paralyzed Marine Walks With Robotic Braces

Raw: Paralyzed Marine Walks With Robotic Braces

AP (Nov. 21, 2014) Marine Corps officials say a special operations officer left paralyzed by a sniper's bullet in Afghanistan walked using robotic leg braces in a ceremony to award him a Bronze Star. (Nov. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
British 'Bio-Bus' Is Powered By Human Waste

British 'Bio-Bus' Is Powered By Human Waste

Buzz60 (Nov. 21, 2014) British company GENeco debuted what its calling the Bio-Bus, a bus fueled entirely by biomethane gas produced from food scraps and sewage. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins