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Journal of Sensors
Volume 2014, Article ID 234607, 6 pages
Research Article

Trace Detection of Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate Using Electrochemical Gas Sensors

1Nanomaterials and Sensor Laboratory, School of Engineering and Computer Science, Washington State University Vancouver, 14204 NE Salmon Creek Avenue, Vancouver, WA 98686, USA
2Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, College of Engineering, Florida State University, 2525 Pottsdamer Street, Building A, Suite A231, Tallahassee, FL 32310-6046, USA

Received 12 October 2014; Revised 3 December 2014; Accepted 7 December 2014; Published 22 December 2014

Academic Editor: Banshi D. Gupta

Copyright © 2014 Praveen K. Sekhar et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Selective and sensitive detection of trace amounts of pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) is demonstrated. The screening system is based on a sampling/concentrator front end and electrochemical potentiometric gas sensor as the detector. A single sensor is operated in the dominant hydrocarbon (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) mode by varying the sensor operating condition. The potentiometric sensor with integrated heaters was used to capture the signature of PETN. Quantitative measurements based on hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide sensor responses indicated that the detector sensitivity scaled proportionally with the mass of the explosives (10 μg down to 200 ng). The ratio of the HC integrated peak area to the NOx integrated peak area is identified as an indicator of selectivity. The HC/NOx ratio is unique for PETN and has a range from 1.7 to 2.7. This detection technique has the potential to become an orthogonal technique to the existing explosive screening technologies for reducing the number of false positives/false negatives in a cost-effective manner.