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Providing ultra-sensitive solutions for real-time trace gas analysis since 1998


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Security and Safety

Illicit substances real-time detection with IONICON PTR-MS

PTR-MS combines all features that are needed for analyzing dangerous and illicit substances like explosives, chemical warfare agents (CWA), toxic industrial chemicals (TIC) and drugs.

Illicit substances - real-time detection with PTR-MS

Outstanding detection limits: Especially explosives are known to have very low vapour pressures and are therefore hard to detect in the gas phase. With IONICON's ultra-low detection limits our instruments are predestined for investigating these substances.

Unambiguous identification: Even the best detector is worthless if it produces either too many "false positives" or too many "false negatives". With IONICON's PTR-TOFMS series it is possible to separate isobaric compounds and therefore to clearly distinguish between dangerous illicit substances and harmless background compounds (see figure at the right side of this page).

Measure the "real thing": Unlike other technologies PTR-MS does not identify illicit substances via by-products (e.g. fragments) that could also originate from harmless sources like e.g. fuel, perfume, etc.. We are able to directly detect the parent molecules, which makes false alarms very unlikely.

Simple handling: With PTR-MS it is not necessary to swipe surfaces or to fill sample bags or tubes prior to the measurement. The air in contact with suspicious items can be analyzed directly and without any preparation. With our novel inlet booster system (featuring a factor of 1000 in sensitivity enhancement) designed especially for explosives detection (work in progress) it is even possible to detect extremely small traces of explosives in large amounts of air on a minute-timescale.

In international projects we have tested and demonstrated that PTR-MS is indeed perfectly suited for the virtually unambiguous detection and identification of explosives, chemical warfare agents (CWAs), toxic industrial compounds (TICs) and illicit, prescription and designer drugs. Several European military research institutes already rely on the stunning advantages PTR-MS has to offer: detecting threat agents at the speed of IMS and selectivity close to GC-MS. For more information about our GUARDED and SPIRIT project, have a look on our security projects website

Toxic Industrial Chemicals (TICs) detection with PTR-MS

Isocyanates and Polychlorinated Biphenyls

Isocyanates are highly reactive species widely used in industry. They can cause irritation of the eyes, trigger asthma, etc. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were widely used in electrical equipments like capacitors and transformers in the last century and are still present in the environment today. PCBs are known to cause cancer and to affect the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems. Therefore, there is a need for a simple, rapid and reliable analytical method for the detection of traces of isocyanates and of PCBs.

Utilizing recent developments and improvements in PTR-MS, we can rapidly detect two important environmental pollutant compound classes (isocyanates and PCBs) at high accuracy and without any sample preparation. Detection of traces of isocyanates and PCBs in air and also of PCBs in liquids is possible using IONICON PTR-MS and the experimental direct aqueous injection (DAI) inlet system. These results could be used for the development of a real-time monitoring device for industrial waste, polluted air or water quality surveillance.