Researchers at the Institute of Melecular Recognition and Technological Development (IDM), which is a mixed centre of Universitat de València and Universitat Politècnica de València, have designed in their laboratory a new intelligent system which will allow quick, precise detection of aromatic nitro explosives like the trinitrotoluene - TNT - existing in solutions or soils contaminated by these substances.
Ana Costero, the researcher at IDM, explains the easy operation of the system: ‘There are chemical sensors whose colorimetric or fluorescent properties change in the presence of some polinitrated explosives (Tetril, TNT, DNT) when they are either in solutions and in contaminated soils. The suspected substance is poured into a tube which has a solution, then we wait for the change of colour or the fluorescence.’ Thus, the system consists of a colorimetric sensor whose fluorescence changes in presence of an explosive. ‘Through an external stimulus, TNT in this case, a colouring from inside the mesoporous material is released, producing a visual signal: a change of colour, from colourless to yellow, which would indicate the presence of an explosive. Besides TNT explosive, the system can detect other explosives like Tetril or dissolved picric acid as well’, explains Ramón Martínez, IDM’s researcher at Universitat Politècnica de València.
Ana Costero also points out that ‘peroxide explosive sensors are being developed as well. They are easy to prepare compounds which have been used in terrorist attacks. These kind of explosives are difficult to detect. The designed methodology is thus aimed at having easy detection systems which could be used at airports, for example.’ She explains that this system can be used ‘in any place where danger is suspected’ and she make us aware that ‘peroxide explosives are those causing that passengers are no longer allowed to take liquids on board.’ One of the uses of polinitrated explosives is the detection of landmines.’
This system, developed by Spanish researchers in collaboration with Danish researchers is much more sensitive, precise and selective than the current detection systems. ‘It is a new, more efficient alternative to the systems already on the market. The results of the laboratory trials and the soils analyses showed its effectiveness as a quick detection system of those substances’, adds Yolanda Salinas, IDM’s researcher at UPV.
Costero has explained that the research team has been working on this project for three years, ‘but it is not only aimed at explosives detection, it is also aimed at nerve gases for which we already have selective colorimetric sensors.’
Among its applications, researchers suggest it could be used by the security forces and entities in charge of the environment protection. For the future, they state that these systems could be transported in a kit to detect the explosives in situ.
This research is funded by a project of the national R&D plan of the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and by the PROMOTEO programme at Generalitat Valenciana. The IDM team presented these results at the VI Workshop on Sensors and Molecular Recognition, which was celebrated at Universitat de València last week.
Last update: 17 de july de 2012 11:34.News release