Smartphone app detects five explosives

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  • Published: Nov 12, 2013
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Base Peak / NMR Knowledge Base / Chemometrics & Informatics / Atomic / MRI Spectroscopy / Infrared Spectroscopy / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / Proteomics / Raman / X-ray Spectrometry

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A smartphone app has been developed to detect and distinguish between five explosives on the basis of a colour test. This is an advance on an earlier reported app in which an iPhone was used to measure the concentration of TNT in soil.

In the new app which was described in Analytical Methods, solutions of the explosives were spotted onto a filter paper that had been printed with spots containing potassium iodide, creatinine and aniline to act as colorimetric reagents. Solutions of the explosives were spotted on top of the reagents and the colour was allowed to develop. Then the smartphone was used to photograph the colours and extract the red-green-blue values which were supplied to chemometric and hierarchical modules on the phone to discriminate between the explosives.

The proof-of-concept study was carried out with TATP, HMTD, 4-amino-2-nitrophenol, nitrobenzene and picric acid. Colour was developed within 15 minutes and their were no misclassifications.

The speed and accuracy of the method make it ideal for use in the field for homeland security and it is inexpensive to set up. It could be used for spot checks on individuals, vehicles, luggage and any other locations were explosives are suspected to have been present.

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