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.
* T.J. Bruno. Simple, quantitative headspace analysis by cryoadsorption on a short alumina PLOT column. 2009. Journal of Chromatographic Science, Vol. 47, pp. 569-574, August.
Laura Ost | Newswise Science News
Scientists enlist engineered protein to battle the MERS virus
22.05.2017 | University of Toronto
Insight into enzyme's 3-D structure could cut biofuel costs
19.05.2017 | DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...
For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.
Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...
22.05.2017 | Event News
17.05.2017 | Event News
16.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.05.2017 | Life Sciences
22.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy