Rapid onsite explosives detection by HPLC

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  • Published: Mar 25, 2015
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Laboratory Informatics / Sample Preparation / Ion Chromatography / Detectors / Proteomics & Genomics / Gas Chromatography / HPLC / Electrophoresis

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Czech researchers have developed a portable detector for nitro-based explosives that can operate non-stop for 12 hours and give results within 8 minutes.

The new HPLC system relies on the established procedure of converting nitrate to peroxynitrite by UV light in a photolytic converter then reacting the product with luminol to create a chemiluminescent product that is detected. The whole reaction sequence takes place online between the injector and the HPLC column and involves a series of reagent and mobile phase reservoirs that keep everything within one box.

Driven by its own power supply, the device can be taken onsite to test soil and water for the presence of explosives such as PETN, RDX and TNT, all of which contain nitro groups. It is also successful for explosive compounds containing nitramines, such as Tetryl, and inorganic nitrates like ammonium nitrate.

Once the environmental sample has been extracted with a solution of aqueous methanol, the suspension can be injected directly for analysis. Results are ready within 8 minutes and the instrument performed consistently over 4 continuous hours of operation.

During testing of soil from a military site for the testing and disposal of ammunition, RDX and EDGN were detected at 0.3 and 2 ppm, respectively.

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