Journal Highlight: Investigations of chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial compounds with proton-transfer-reaction mass spectrometry for a real-time threat monitoring scenario

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  • Published: Mar 11, 2013
  • Author: spectroscopyNOW
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thumbnail image: Journal Highlight: Investigations of chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial compounds with proton-transfer-reaction mass spectrometry for a real-time threat monitoring scenario

Investigations of chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial compounds with proton-transfer-reaction mass spectrometry for a real-time threat monitoring scenario

Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 2013, 27, 325-332
Thomas Kassebacher, Philipp Sulzer, Simone Jürschik, Eugen Hartungen, Alfons Jordan, Achim Edtbauer, Stefan Feil, Gernot Hanel, Stefan Jaksch, Lukas Märk, Chris A. Mayhew, Tilmann D. Märk

Chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial compounds have been studied by high-resolution PTR-TOFMS to identify key product ions and their intensities with which to develop a low-resolution PTR-MS system for detecting threat agents in the atmosphere.

Abstract: Security and protection against terrorist attacks are major issues in modern society. One especially challenging task is the monitoring and protection of air conditioning and heating systems of buildings against terrorist attacks with toxic chemicals. As existing technologies have low selectivity, long response times or insufficient sensitivity, there is a need for a novel approach such as we present here. We have analyzed various chemical warfare agents (CWAs) and/or toxic industrial compounds (TICs) and related compounds, namely phosgene, diphosgene, chloroacetone, chloroacetophenone, diisopropylaminoethanol, and triethyl phosphate, utilizing a high-resolution proton-transfer-reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometry (PTR-TOFMS) instrument with the objective of finding key product ions and their intensities, which will allow a low-resolution quadrupole mass spectrometry based PTR-MS system to be used with high confidence in the assignment of threat agents in the atmosphere. We obtained high accuracy PTR-TOFMS mass spectra of the six compounds under study at two different values for the reduced electric field in the drift tube (E/N). From these data we have compiled a table containing product ions, and isotopic and E/N ratios for highly selective threat compound detection with a compact and cost-effective quadrupole-based PTR-MS instrument. Furthermore, using chloroacetophenone (tear gas), we demonstrated that this instrument's response is highly linear in the concentration range of typical Acute Exposure Guideline Levels (AEGLs). On the basis of the presented results it is possible to develop a compact and cost-effective PTR-QMS instrument that monitors air supply systems and triggers an alarm as soon as the presence of a threat agent is detected. We hope that this real-time surveillance device will help to seriously improve safety and security in environments vulnerable to terrorist attacks with toxic chemicals.

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