Portable Sensor Developed to Detect Explosives

Portable Sensor

Scientists have developed a compact and portable sensor that detects explosives like DNT and TNT in real time and can be used to monitor public spaces to counter terrorism.

Nitroaromatic explosives like DNT, TNT, and TNP pose a serious threat to civilian and military safety. These chemicals are also recognized as toxic contaminants that pollute the environment.

The device, described in the journal Scientific Reports, paves the way for lightweight and the compact explosive sensor for field use as well as for environmental monitoring.

Large scale use of explosives in the terror activities triggered the scientists at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee to work on novel sensing materials for detection of such explosives.

The team, which included Binoy Maiti and Priyadarsi De from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Kolkata, developed the sensor by using a technique based on fluorescence spectroscopy.

When explosives come into contact with the newly synthesized polymer, the color of the polymer changes, which can be seen with the naked eye.

“This polymer can detect the explosive class of compounds, known as nitroaromatics, in both solution and vapor phase,” Soumitra Satapathi, an Assistant Professor at IIT Roorkee.

“In presence of DNT, TNT and TNP vapor, the fluorescence of the thin film of polymer is quenched significantly making it perfect for field applications,” said Satapathi.

“This sensor gives real-time information and could be used for defense and forensic applications,” he said.

“It will be useful to monitor public spaces for terrorism-related activities and to monitor groundwater seepage from buried munitions or waste that contains nitroaromatics,” said Satapathi asserted.

According to the researchers, the sensor has already proven its efficiency by changing colour immediately only in the presence of DNT, TNT, and TNP.

The sensor is very compact and can be easily used in public places like airports, train stations, shopping malls, etc.

Satapathi said that the cost of this device will be much lower than conventional devices like a mass spectrophotometer.

The team is now working on a similar system to detect other explosives such as nitro-esters (Nitroglycerin, PETN) and nitro-amines (HMX).

The Correspondent bureau with inputs from agencies

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