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Volume 4 (2004), Pages 55-66
Research Article

Trace Explosives Detection by Photoluminescence

Center for Forensic Studies, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409-1051, USA

Received 7 December 2003; Revised 21 January 2004; Accepted 26 February 2004

Academic Editor: Ray C. Rowe

Copyright © 2004 E. Roland Menzel et al.


Some field tests in counter-terrorism efforts to detect explosive traces employ chemistries that yield colored products. We have examined a test kit of this kind, ETKPlus, based on widely used chemistries and employed extensively by the Israel Police. Our investigation focuses on the prospect of gaining sensitivity by replacing the normal colorimetric modality with photoluminescence detection, which, to our knowledge, has not been explored to date. We find two or more orders of magnitude sensitivity gains for all explosives studied, using field-worthy photoluminescence techniques. We have also investigated a general lanthanide-based photoluminescence approach which shows promise and the ability to photoluminescence-detect trace explosives in the presence of intense background color and/or background fluorescence by time-resolved imaging.