[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 21-Oct-2010
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Contact: Jason Socrates Bardi
jbardi@aip.org
301-209-3091
American Institute of Physics

Towards better explosives detectors

WASHINGTON, D.C., (Oct. 21, 2010) -- Over the past decade, Christine Mahoney and a team of scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Maryland have been working to stop the threat of terrorist-based attacks in the form of explosives or explosive-based devices, by providing a sound measurement and standard infrastructure.

"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," says Mahoney, who is making a presentation today at the AVS 57th International Symposium & Exhibition, which takes place this week at the Albuquerque Convention Center in New Mexico.

One measurement technique, Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) is proving to be critical for identifying and differentiating the various components of explosives. ToF-SIMS is a mass spectrometric-based imaging technique that is able to 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.

Unlike traditional analytical techniques such as gas and liquid chromatography, which can provide a partial analysis of extracted samples, 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. ToF-SIMS provides rapid identification of both organic and inorganic constituents and their characteristic isotopic abundances with excellent sensitivity. Most importantly, it is well-suited for direct analysis of small explosive particulates collected directly in the field and sent back to the lab.

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. "It's a more thorough way of looking at the material," says Mahoney. "We look at everything all at once."

Using ToF-SIMS in combination with other techniques that visualize the crystal structure of the samples, Mahoney identified and differentiated between commercial C4, military C4 from the United States, and C4 from the U.K.

The ultimate goal of the project, though, is not to develop ToF-SIMS as a portable technology to use in the field. Rather, Mahoney is creating 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.

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The talk, "Characterization of Composition C4 Explosives using Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Sepctrometry (ToF-SIMS) and X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS)" is at 10:40 a.m. on Thursday, October 21, 2010. Abstract: http://www.avssymposium.org/Open/SearchPapers.aspx?PaperNumber=AS2-ThM-9

MORE INFORMATION FOR JOURNALISTS

The AVS 57th International Symposium and Exhibition is being held October 17-22, 2010, at the Albuquerque Convention Center, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The meeting includes more than 1,200 talks and posters presented in more than 130 technical sessions. All meeting information, including directions to the Convention Center, can be found at: http://www2.avs.org/symposium/

REGISTRATION -- Staff reporters and professional freelance journalists working on assignment are invited to attend the conference free of charge. Journalist registration instructions can be found at: http://www2.avs.org/symposium/AVS57/pdfs/pressinvite.pdf

PRESS ROOM

The AVS press room will be located in East Lobby of the Albuquerque Convention Center. Press room hours are Monday-Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The phone number there is 408-205-0595. Press Kits containing company product announcements and other news will be available on CD-ROM in the press room. Also access the online press room at: http://www2.avs.org/symposium/AVS57/pages/press57.html

USEFUL LINKS

Complete Program: http://www2.avs.org/symposium/AVS57/pages/tech_program.html
Searchable abstracts: http://www.avssymposium.org/Open/SearchPapers.aspx
Topical Conferences: http://www2.avs.org/symposium/AVS57/pages/tech_topconf.html#EN
Meeting Home Page: http://www2.avs.org/symposium/

PLENARY SESSION

The plenary talk, "Carbon Nanotubes and Single Sheet Graphene," which will be at noon on Monday, October 18, 2010 in Ballroom B of the Albuquerque Convention Center. See: http://www2.avs.org/symposium/AVS57/pages/sessions_lecturer.html

SPECIAL TUTORIALS

AVS promotes communication, dissemination of knowledge, recommended practices, research, and education in a broad range of technologically relevant topics. One way that it does this is by offering special tutorials in areas such as:

- Graphene Tutorial (Sunday, October 17, 2010, 1:00-5:00 p.m.)

- Tutorial on Nanoparticle Characterization and Toxicity: Significant Challenges and Critical Needs (Sunday, October 17, 2010, 1:00-5:00 p.m.)

To access the complete descriptions of these special tutorials, see: http://www2.avs.org/symposium/AVS57/pages/special_tutorials.html

ABOUT AVS

As a professional membership organization, AVS fosters networking within the materials, processing, and interfaces community at various local, national or international meetings and exhibits throughout the year. AVS publishes four journals, honors and recognizes members through its prestigious awards program, offers training and other technical resources, as well as career services.



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