Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Prototype Method Detects And Measures Elusive Hazards -- From Concealed Explosives To Toxins

Date:
September 14, 2009
Source:
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Summary:
A chemist has demonstrated a relatively simple, inexpensive method for detecting and measuring elusive hazards such as concealed explosives and toxins, invisible spoilage in food or pesticides distributed in soil by wind and rain.

NIST research chemist Tom Bruno and postdoctoral researcher Tara Lovestead assemble an apparatus for detecting and measuring explosives and toxins. The sample is inside the blue column (lower center). Bruno enhanced the technique, called headspace analysis, to make it suitable for detecting low concentrations of polar, low-volatility compounds.
Credit: Burrus/NIST

A chemist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has demonstrated a relatively simple, inexpensive method for detecting and measuring elusive hazards such as concealed explosives and toxins, invisible spoilage in food or pesticides distributed in soil by wind and rain.

Related Articles


The prototype method is more sensitive than conventional techniques for detecting traces of these materials, which are polar—like water molecules, having distinct electrically positive and negative ends—and do not readily evaporate.

As described in a new paper, NIST researcher Tom Bruno enhanced a technique called "headspace analysis," which is the detection and analysis of trace levels of chemical compounds from a solid or liquid that are released into the surrounding atmosphere. Bruno's enhancements greatly improve the efficiency of sample collection, for the first time making the technique suitable for detecting low concentrations of polar, low-volatility, compounds such as explosives. Preliminary results indicate the method is sensitive enough to measure amounts of target materials that constitute as little as 0.0000002 percent of a sample.

The sample collection device consists of several coils of fine tubing just 0.32 millimeters in inner diameter. Bruno modified the inner coating, which efficiently attracts and retains chemicals across its large surface area. The device can be used with a sample-heating oven as part of a laboratory analysis system or taken into the field for sample collection. To extract target molecules from a sample, the coil is placed inside an insulated cylinder and chilled with a cold air stream to minus 40 degrees Celsius. A gas, such as helium, is swept across the sample held in the oven or the coil device, gathering up target molecules along the way, and through the fine tubing. Chilling the coils—part of Bruno's innovation—makes collection of target molecules more efficient. The tubing is washed with a solvent, or heated, to release the captured molecules for analysis.

Bruno found that the mass of the collected molecules increases with rising oven and sweep gas temperatures, offering a way to detect specific target molecules under particular field conditions. NIST researchers demonstrated the new method using several explosives, including the pure explosive TNT and the plastic explosive mixture C-4. Among other applications, NIST researchers have used the method to improve sampling and analysis of fire retardants in a car interior, a topic of interest because of concerns expressed by some that the "new car smell" may be a health hazard. They also are using the method to detect volatile protein decomposition products in spoiled meats. Environmental applications could include detection of pesticides deposited on soils subject to weathering effects.

The work is supported by the Department of Homeland Security.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. T.J. Bruno. Simple, quantitative headspace analysis by cryoadsorption on a short alumina PLOT column. Journal of Chromatographic Science, 2009; 47: 569-574

Cite This Page:

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "Prototype Method Detects And Measures Elusive Hazards -- From Concealed Explosives To Toxins." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090909103122.htm>.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). (2009, September 14). Prototype Method Detects And Measures Elusive Hazards -- From Concealed Explosives To Toxins. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090909103122.htm
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "Prototype Method Detects And Measures Elusive Hazards -- From Concealed Explosives To Toxins." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090909103122.htm (accessed November 24, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Monday, November 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) A British solar power start-up says that by covering millions of existing car park spaces around the UK with flexible solar panels, the country's power problems could be solved. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Microsoft Adds Robot Guards, Ushers In Sci-Fi Apocalypse

Microsoft Adds Robot Guards, Ushers In Sci-Fi Apocalypse

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) Microsoft has robotic security guards working at its Silicon Valley Campus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
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

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