Better explosive detectors on the anvil

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Washington, Oct 24 (ANI): Christine Mahoney and a team of scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Maryland have been working on designing explosive detectors that can stop the threat of terrorist-based attacks in the form of explosives or explosive-based devices.

"Our program encompasses many different aspects of explosives research, from development of measurement standards for trace explosives detection at airports, to the development and application of new metrology for the direct characterization and identification of these explosives," said Mahoney.

One measurement technique, Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) can detect components such as plasticizers, binders, oils, and the explosives themselves. It can potentially be used to differentiate between explosive manufacturers and to reveal an explosive material's country of origin.

ToF-SIMS and other mass spectrometric imaging techniques allow for the simultaneous and direct characterization of all the components in explosives like C4, including the explosive active components, additives, binders, and contaminants.

According to Mahoney, the laboratory technique is sensitive enough to detect bits of explosive material scattered in a fingerprint, making it a potentially powerful forensic tool.

The ultimate goal of the project is to create a library of precise, standardized reference samples that could be used to test, calibrate, and optimize new technologies for detecting explosives in the field.

"We can really nail down the differences in the chemistries between different kinds of explosives," said Mahoney. (ANI)

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