A methodology to detect explosive residues using a gelled ionic liquid based field-deployable electrochemical device
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A simple and robust, low-cost electrochemical device is proposed for the combined sampling and detection of the trace solid explosive 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) from a non-porous surface. Four different substrates were investigated to collect explosive residue – a bare thin-film electrode, glass microfiber filter paper, a gel-polymer electrolyte (GPE), and a GPE-filter paper composite. The GPE contained the hydrophobic room temperature ionic liquid (RTIL) trihexyltetradecylphosphonium bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl)imide ([P14,6,6,6][NTf2]) and the polymer poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA). A simple “swabbing” technique was used to sample explosive residue on all substrates. Square wave voltammetry was performed to determine the effects of oxygen and moisture on the current response. The most robust method for use in the field – a GPE drop-casted on a TFE – was applied in real environments using a hand-held portable potentiostat. The prototype device was able to detect TNT with a 30 min development time in different ambient environmental conditions. The portability, ease of use and low-cost of the sensor device makes this a viable platform for the rapid onsite detection of explosives.
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