Washington, May 24 : A security systems company RedXDefense has developed a portable kit that can quickly reveal trace amounts of nitrogen-based explosives.
Security officers can use the new kit with minimal training, according to a research article describing this advancement.
The report reveals that the kit relies on fluorescent polymers developed at UCSD by chemistry and biochemistry professor William Trogler and graduate student Jason Sanchez for its detection abilities.
"It's a very intuitive detection method that doesn't require a scientist to run," Trogler said.
The polymers emit blue light when excited by ultraviolet radiation, and nitrogen-based explosive chemicals like TNT quench that glow by soaking up electrons.
The researchers say that a security officer would not require any special instrument to read the results because the polymers fluoresce brightly.
They say that spraying a very thin film on a suspect surface would be enough to reveal the presence of a dangerous chemical.
The researchers say that a single layer of the polymer, about one thousandth of a gram, would be enough to detect minute amounts of some explosives, as little as a few trillionths of a gram (picograms) on a surface a half-foot in diameter.
According to them, the films also adhere directly to potentially contaminated surfaces, making them more sensitive than previous methods, which rely on capturing molecules that escape into the air.
The incriminating fingerprints are revealed as soon as the solvents dry, and the detection process can complete within half a minute.
Sanchez and Trogler describe the synthesis and properties of their polymers in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Materials Chemistry.