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NH4+ Ionization for Explosives and CWA Detection

Crucial application benefits from fast switching NH4+ ionization

The proprietary and IONICON exclusive method of producing NH4+ solely from H2O vapor and N2 in the established hollow cathode ion source, without the need of any ammonia (PCT application submitted) has many advantages.

Today we would like to introduce a promising application field where NH4+ is the ideal reagent ion. The unambiguous and highly sensitive detection of explosives as well as chemical warfare agents.

TATP real-time detection

Analyzing the headspace of some µg of the infamous explosive TATP with NH4+ reagent ions boosts the TATP.H+ signal by a factor of 20 compared to the H3O+ mode, because of suppressed fragmentation. Additionally the cluster TATP.NH4+ is formed at an even higher abundance. Thus, by using TATP.NH4+ as an additional detection marker, also the selectivity is considerably improved in “NH4+ mode”.

Live tests and real-time detection of CWAs

The nine most important CWAs (including Sarin, Tabun, Soman, VX, Lewisite, Cyclosarin, Nitrogen mustard and Sulfur mustard) have been investigated at a facility specialized and licensed for CWA handling. 

Live tests and real-time detection of CWAs with NH4PTR-TOFMS

NH4+ turned out to be the perfect reagent ion for extremely sensitive and selective detection of most tested CWAs. Limits-of-Detection (LODs) in the gas phase were between 10 and 30 pptv for 1s integration time, i.e. for real-time analysis. Fast switching from H3O+ to NH4+ and back with SRI technology allowed to cover all CWAs of interest without delays. Surface contaminations of 1 ng/cm² could be easily detected for most compounds. Thus, a promising application in the security realm is decontamination control.

Learn more about our proprietary method to create NH4+ ions or contact us directly!

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