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      Direct detection of explosives on solid surfaces by low temperature plasma desorption mass spectrometry.

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          Abstract

          In this paper, we have constructed a low temperature plasma (LTP) probe using dielectric barrier discharge (DBD) and employed it for the detection of explosives on a variety of substrates under ambient conditions. Upon discharge, a transient, low-temperature non-equilibrium plasma comprising ions, electrons and metastable atoms are generated between the electrodes. Three common explosives, 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT), hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX), and pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN), were directly desorbed and ionized from solid surfaces, followed by subsequent analysis using the mass spectrometer in the negative ion mode. Limits of detection (LODs) were 500 fg for TNT, 1 pg for RDX, and 500 fg for PETN. The reliability of the method was characterized by a successful analysis of a mixture of the three explosives. The ion source also allowed direct detection of trace explosives on both conductive and non-conductive substrates, thus expanding the applicability of low temperature plasma desorption mass spectrometry.

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          Most cited references 23

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          Versatile new ion source for the analysis of materials in open air under ambient conditions.

          A new ion source has been developed for rapid, noncontact analysis of materials at ambient pressure and at ground potential. The new source, termed DART (for "Direct Analysis in Real Time"), is based on the reactions of electronic or vibronic excited-state species with reagent molecules and polar or nonpolar analytes. DART has been installed on a high-resolution time-of-flight mass spectrometer (TOFMS) that provides improved selectivity and accurate elemental composition assignment through exact mass measurements. Although DART has been applied to the analysis of gases, liquids, and solids, a unique application is the direct detection of chemicals on surfaces without requiring sample preparation, such as wiping or solvent extraction. DART has demonstrated success in sampling hundreds of chemicals, including chemical agents and their signatures, pharmaceutics, metabolites, peptides and oligosaccharides, synthetic organics, organometallics, drugs of abuse, explosives, and toxic industrial chemicals. These species were detected on various surfaces, such as concrete, asphalt, human skin, currency, airline boarding passes, business cards, fruits, vegetables, spices, beverages, body fluids, horticultural leaves, cocktail glasses, and clothing. DART employs no radioactive components and is more versatile than devices using radioisotope-based ionization. Because its response is instantaneous, DART provides real-time information, a critical requirement for screening or high throughput.
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            Detection Technologies. Ambient mass spectrometry.

            A recent innovation in mass spectrometry is the ability to record mass spectra on ordinary samples, in their native environment, without sample preparation or preseparation by creating ions outside the instrument. In desorption electrospray ionization (DESI), the principal method described here, electrically charged droplets are directed at the ambient object of interest; they release ions from the surface, which are then vacuumed through the air into a conventional mass spectrometer. Extremely rapid analysis is coupled with high sensitivity and high chemical specificity. These characteristics are advantageously applied to high-throughput metabolomics, explosives detection, natural products discovery, and biological tissue imaging, among other applications. Future possible uses of DESI for in vivo clinical analysis and its adaptation to portable mass spectrometers are described.
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              Ambient mass spectrometry using desorption electrospray ionization (DESI): instrumentation, mechanisms and applications in forensics, chemistry, and biology.

              Analytical characteristics of DESI are summarized. Examples of applications to small and large molecules, to in situ analysis, and to high-throughput analyses are presented. Evidence is provided for both a heterogeneous charge-transfer mechanism and a droplet pick-up mechanism of ionization. The speed, lack of the need for sample preparation, selectivity, and sensitivity of DESI are all demonstrated and discussed. Instrumentation is also discussed. Forensic applications as well as emerging areas of application including tissue imaging are given emphasis. Copyright (c) 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Analyst
                The Analyst
                Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)
                1364-5528
                0003-2654
                Jan 2009
                : 134
                : 1
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Department of Chemistry, Key Laboratory for Atomic and Molecular Nanosciences of Education Ministry, Tsinghua University, 100084, Beijing, PR China.
                Article
                10.1039/b816230a
                19082190

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