Bomb plots could be thwarted with the help of a portable system for detecting traces of high explosives using fluorescent polymer nanoparticles, developed by A*STAR. Coated on to paper, these polymers display an explosive-detection performance far more robust than previous materials with similar properties.

Many methods have been developed to detect traces of high explosives such as trinitrotoluene (TNT), but most require large, lab-based analytical instruments such as UV absorption detectors or mass spectrometers, says Jianwei Xu from the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering, who led the work. « We aimed to develop a portable, quick, inexpensive and highly sensitive alternative. »

Xu focused on fluorescent polymers whose dims when exposed to vapors of molecules such as TNT that contain ‘nitro-groups’—the nitrogen-rich structure that give high explosives their energetic properties.
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