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Detection of Explosives in Hair Using Ion Mobility Spectrometry

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Conventional explosives 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT), nitroglycerin (NG), and ethylene glycol dinitrate (EGDN) sorbed to hair can be directly detected by an ion mobility spectrometer (IMS) in E-mode (for explosives). Terrorist explosive, triacetone triperoxide (TATP), difficult to detect by IMS in E-mode, was detected in N-mode (for narcotics). Three modes of sample introduction to IMS vapor desorption unit were used: (i) placement of hair directly into the unit, (ii) swabbing of hair and placement of swabs (i.e., paper GE-IMS sample traps) into the unit, and (iii) acetonitrile extracts of hair positioned on sample traps and placed into the unit. TNT, NG, and EGDN were detected in E-mode by all three sample introduction methods. TATP could only be detected by the acetonitrile extraction method after exposure of the hair to vapor for 16 days because of lower sensitivity. With standard solutions, TATP detection in E-mode required about 10 times as much sample as EGDN (3.9 μg compared with 0.3 μg). IMS in N-mode detected TATP from hair by all three modes of sample introduction.

Keywords: 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene; ethylene glycol dinitrate; explosive sorption; explosive vapor; forensic science; hair; ion mobility spectrometer; nitroglycerine; triacetone triperoxide

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Chemistry Department, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881.

Publication date: May 1, 2008

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