The ability to detect trace or residue explosive material can make a significant impact on prevention, mitigation, and deterrence in the global effort against bombers. Traditional explosive detection instruments use technologies such as Raman spectroscopy, capillary electrophoresis, laser electrospray with mass spectrometry, and ion chromatography. Use of such instruments requires specialized equipment and training, a large budget, and regular system maintenance. While these devices are useful, their cost, sophistication, and limited portability may not be ideal for use in the field. Alternatives to instruments for detecting explosives are colorimetric kits which detect the presence of explosives or a key ingredient in an explosive by a visual color change. This is attributed to a unique chemical reaction between the chemical of interest and a reagent. Colorimetric methods rely on several chemical reagents used in a specific sequence to generate the necessary reaction. Typically, these detection capabilities rely on precise reactions to confidently determine the explosive present.
Army researchers have developed explosive detection reagent compositions comprising a RuEDTA complex, a binuclear aromatic hydroxyl (BAH) compound, and a lanthanum salt for detecting explosives containing chlorate and hydrogen peroxide. Derivatives of chlorate are strong oxidizers, readily available, and easily detonable when mixed with fuel. Hydrogen peroxide is a strong liquid oxidizer and is used in many explosive organic peroxides. The technology can be altered to detect ammonia and urea – also common and easily available explosive compound components – through the use of sodium phenoxide. Nitrates are detected with this invention via tartaric or citric acid, sulfanilamide, and zinc.
- This is a portable, five-step system that can be completed in under one minute and is safe to use on humans
- Flexible packaging that protects the reactants also serves as a vessel for the chemical reaction and analysis
- Can be stored in pockets or other small spaces in a ready-to-use system for immediate detection and analysis
- No heating or instrumentation required
- US patent 9,575,046 available for license
- Potential for collaboration with Army researchers