Fluorescence Detection and Identification of Tagging Agents and Impurities Found in Explosives

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The detection and identification of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT), 1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazacyclohexane (RDX), and pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) vapors have proven to be difficult and challenging due to the low vapor pressures of these high explosives. Detecting higher vapor pressure impurity compounds found in TNT and possible tagging agents mandated to be added to plastic explosives (RDX and PETN) would allow for easier vapor detection. The higher vapor pressure nitro compounds of interest are considered to be non-fluorescent; however, once reduced to their amino analogs, they have relatively high quantum yields. The standard reduction products, the reduction products obtained in solution, and the reduction products obtained in vapor phase were analyzed by conventional fluorescence, synchronous luminescence, and derivative spectroscopy. The nitro analogs of the isomers 1,3-diaminobenzene, 1,2-diaminobenzene, and 1,4-diaminobenzene are found as impurities in TNT. We provide for the first time the synchronous luminescence derivative spectra of these isomers; including their individual spectra and a spectrum of an isomeric mixture of the three. Using the standard reduction products associated with these isomers and other aromatic amines, our data suggest that the vapors of two signature impurities, 1,3-dinitrobenzene and 2,4-dinitrotoluene (2,4-DNT), minor impurity compounds, and two possible tagging agents, 2-nitrotoluene (2-NT) and 4-nitrotoluene (4-NT), can be detected and selectively identified using our fluorescence approach. To prove our methodology, we show that we were able to generate, collect, and reduce 2-NT, 4-NT, and 2,4-DNT vapors to their amino analogs. Using our fluorescence approach, these vapors could be detected and selectively identified both individually and in a mixture. Collectively, our data indicate that our method of detecting and identifying higher vapor pressure explosive-like compounds could potentially be used to detect and identify low vapor pressure explosives such as TNT, RDX, and PETN.


Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1366/000370208784909652

Affiliations: 1: Department of Chemistry, University of Idaho, P.O. Box 442343 Moscow, Idaho 83844-2343 2: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, 902 Battelle Boulevard, P.O. Box 999 Richland, Washington 99352

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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