The World's Leading PTR-MS Trace Analyzers Company

Security Projects

Ultra-high sensitivity of several hundred cps/ppbv, detection limits down to the sub-pptv region and multi-dimensional selectivity (high mass resolution, E/N dependent branching ratios, selective reagent ionization) make PTR-MS the ideal tool for the detection of threat agents.  

Our Mission in Safety and Security

In several international projects we have proven that PTR-MS indeed is 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.  

KIRAS Security Research "DURCHBLICK"

In the project DURCHBLICK we plan to investigate the combination of different sensor technologies for robot-assisted analysis and for forensic investigations of suspicious objects (e.g. left luggage, manipulated trash cans, etc.) in public spaces.

Executive Summary

The previous attacks in Paris, the terrorist warnings of Hannover and Munich in the last year are just a few examples of how present the threat of bombings currently is. In particular, the increasing prevalence of instructions for manufacturing improvised or unconventional explosive devices (IEDs) found on the internet results in a serious threat to public safety. Therefore, law enforcement agencies must be able to quickly and efficiently investigate suspicious objects such as abandoned pieces of luggage, manipulated trash cans, gas cylinders, improvised pyrotechnics and similar suspicious items with the lowest possible risk. 
The aim of the project is to provide the emergency services with a powerful sensor system, which significantly exceeds the current state of the art. It will be possible to remotely pilot a robotic sensor platform to the potential source of danger, so detailed information on the contents of a suspicious object can be gathered quickly. This is currently not possible with available systems. The data from different sensors will be merged by fusion algorithms and presented to the operator in an appropriate manner in a user-friendly, efficient user interface. The information will be made available to the emergency services with short delay, firstly to assist them in the assessment of the threat and secondly to support them in the decision making process on how to proceed in a critical situation.
Based on a detailed definition of the security organizations requirements, potential sensor technologies will be evaluated and compared on the basis of available literature, as well as by practical tests in the defined application scenarios. A main focus of the investigation is the Proton Transfer Reaction - Mass Spectrometry (PTR-MS) technology, which is very promising for this application because of its capability to detect and quantify Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Tests and demonstrations under realistic conditions with involvement of end users will be performed already during the project lifetime. It will be ensured that a powerful and usable system is developed, which provides a clear advantage over currently available technology. 
The involvement of ethical, sociological and legal experts in the selection, optimization and application of the technologies will ensure that social and legal aspects are taken into account in the process of system development.


Within DURCHBLICK IONICON will develop a PTR-TOFMS demonstrator which can be readily mounted on a robot platform. The demonstrator will not only be able to detect various threat compounds with high selectivity, but also quantify compound concentrations in real-time. The resulting data will be processed and provided via an interface, in a way that they can be combined with data from other sensors such as infrared camera, optical sensors (laser scanner, visual camera) and sensor technology for the detection and identification of radioactivity, gases and volatile explosives. By means of data fusion of various sensors and an efficient user interface, specifically designed for use by emergency services under stress situations, the information will be immediately available for emergency responders. Thereby a reliable assessment of the situation from a safe distance will be possible. 

Project Details

Name Detektion unterschiedlicher unkonventioneller Spreng- und Brandvorrichtungen mittels intelligenter analytischer Sensorik / Detection of varying improvised explosive devices by using smart analytic sensors
Type of funding KIRAS Cooperative Research and Innovation Projects, Project no: 854756
Duration 2017 until 2019
Project Website Link



In the collaborative FP7-SEC project "Safety and Protection of built infrastructure to Resist Integral Threats - SPIRIT" a consortium of ten European research institutions and companies worked on solutions to protect buildings from terrorist attacks. 

Executive Summary

Terrorist attacks by bombing or CBR-agents are threats with a low probability but with disastrous consequences. There is strong need to protect people and critical infrastructures against being damaged, destroyed or disrupted by deliberate acts of terrorism. Solutions have to be  developed to realize sufficient resilience of the urban infrastructure for rare occasions with minimum effect on normality. Hitherto, normal regulations and building guidelines do not take into account the CBRE threat. Fortunately, the required specialist knowledge is available on explosion dynamics, response of structures, dispersions of toxic agents and the injuries. This knowledge should be explored to derive the required solutions. Therefore, the SPIRIT Consortium was formed to bring the required expertise together, make these commonly available and to find solutions that can be integrated into normal life as well as planning and building procedures. Within SPIRIT a terrorist attack with the whole scope of CBRE-threat is addressed. The main outcome of the project is an integrated approach to counter CBRE-threats, including proposed guidelines for an EU Regulatory Framework. With this approach, government, end users of buildings and designers can define and achieve a desired level of protection. The SPIRIT contribution to built infrastructure protection will be: 

  • A methodology to quantify the vulnerability of built infrastructure in damage, number of injuries and loss of functionality and services; 
  • A guidance tool to assess the vulnerability and define efficient and effective countermeasures to achieve a required protection level;
  • Draft guidelines to enable safety based engineering and the incorporation of CBRE protection; 
  • A suite of ready to use CBRE countermeasure products. The overall goal of the SPIRIT project is to contribute to people safety and increase the resilience of built infrastructure against a terrorist attack. 


For SPIRIT we developed a user-friendly, compact and cost-efficient detector and monitor for CWAs and TICs based on IONICON's PTR-QMS 300. In order to provide a solution for non-scientific users and for standalone (i.e. without the need for an external PC, which is common for PTR-MS instruments) monitoring of HVAC (heating, ventilating and air-conditioning) systems the SPIRIT PTR-MS instrument is equipped with newly developed detection software installed on an embedded PC. To feed this novel detection software with data, we created a comprehensive CWA/TIC database utilizing a high resolution PTR-TOF 8000. With this instrument we could investigate the PTR reactions of different substances in great detail (e.g. fragmentation behavior in dependence on the reduced electric field strength in the drift tube) and develop an algorithm that greatly enhances the selectivity of the low mass resolution PTR-QMS.


  • T. Kassebacher, et al.: Detecting and Quantifying Toxic Industrial Compounds (TICs) with Proton-Transfer-Reaction Mass Spectrometry (PTR-MS), CCIs 318 (2012) 438-447. LINK
  • T. Kassebacher, et al.: Investigations of Chemical Warfare Agents and Toxic Industrial Compounds with Proton-Transfer-Reaction Mass Spectrometry (PTR-MS) for a real-time threat monitoring scenario, Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 27 (2013) 1-8. LINK
  • P. Sulzer, et al.: Detection of Toxic Industrial Compounds (TIC) with Proton-Transfer-Reaction Mass Spectrometry (PTR-MS) for a real-life monitoring scenario, Contrib. 6th Int. PTR-MS Conf. (2013) 196-199. LINK

Project Details

Acronym SPIRIT
Name Safety and Protection of built infrastructure to Resist Integral Threats
Type of funding EU FP7-SEC, GA no.: 242319
Duration 2010 until 2013
Project Website



In the "Generic Urban Area Robotized Detection of CBRNE Devices - GUARDED" project, funded by the European Defence Agency, five partners worked on the integration of different sensors on a robot platform for the remote detection of threat agents.

Executive Summary

Generic Urban Area Robotized Detection of CBRNE Devices (GUARDED) is one of the JIP-FP projects addressing CBRNE protection. The project started in January 2008 and had a duration of 36 months. The aim of this project is to demonstrate the feasibility of a remote controlled mobile platform equipped with CBRNE sensors to gather and disseminate information on a suspected hazard or confirmed contaminated area. The objective is achieved by integrating a mission tailored suite of CBRNE sensors and specific embedded tools, as collector of sample for example, with a remote controlled mobile platform controlled by an operator outside of the hazardous area. The GUARDED Remote Worker is part of a CBRNE robotic intervention system concept. This concept, coming from military, fire-fighter and EOD specifications is based on the use of a range of multi sized platforms (at least three types : small, medium and large) able to carry a set of sensors and/or tools through standardized interfaces (mechanic, electric and software). As developed under the EDA R&T Joint Investment Programme on Force Protection A-0120-RT-GC, this system can be used for experiments by the contributing members of JIP-FP that could borrow it as defined in this program.


In the framework of GUARDED we developed a rugged and compact PTR-MS instrument for use on a robot platform. Starting from the established PTR-QMS 300 instrument, we performed some preliminary tests in a real-life scenario, i.e. sniffing paper boxes containing explosives, chemical warfare agents, toxic industrial compounds and harmless everyday substances. Based on these results, we performed a detailed analysis of the different substances in their pure form, utilizing all available PTR-MS instruments (PTR-TOF 8000, PTR-TOF 2000, HS PTR-QMS 500, PTR-QMS 300) to obtain full insight into the detection characteristics of these substances. Furthermore we developed a a pre-concentrator coupled with thermal desorption and integrated it into the final GUARDED prototype. The software interface had to be substantially changed. Starting from the established "PTR-MS Control" software that gives as much information as possible about the measurement process (instrumental parameters, voltages, masses, count-rates, temperatures, etc.) we developed a highly user-friendly and flexible graphical user interface (GUI) for the fully automated instrument.


  • P. Sulzer, et al.: Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometry and the Unambiguous Real-Time Detection of 2,4,6 Trinitrotoluene, Analytical Chemistry 84 (2012), 4161-4166. LINK
  • P. Sulzer, et al.: Roboter aided detection of threat compounds, Contributions 5th International Conference on Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometry and its Applications (2011), 158-161.

Project Details

Name Generic Urban Area Robotized Detection of CBRNE Devices
Type of funding EU FP7, A-0378-RT-GC
Duration 2008 until 2011
Project Website: