Great innovation for ensuring security! A portable sensor to detect explosives like DNT and TNT in real time

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Published: June 19, 2019 12:36:44 PM

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

Science, scientific innovation, portable sensor, portable sensor explosives, explosives, TNT, DNT, Indian Institute of Technology, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research According to the researchers the sensor has already proven its efficiency by changing colour immediately only in presence of DNT, TNT and TNP. (Representational Image: PTI)

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 recognised as toxic contaminants that pollute the environment.

The device, described in the journal Scientific Reports, paves the way for light weight and 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.

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When explosives come into contact with the newly synthesised polymer, the colour 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 vapour phase,” Soumitra Satapathi, an Assistant Professor at IIT Roorkee, told PTI.

“In presence of DNT, TNT and TNP vapour, 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 defence 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 added.

According to the researchers the sensor has already proven its efficiency by changing colour immediately only in 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 mass spectrophotometer.

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

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