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CWA and Decontamination measurements with PTR-TOF

"Clean and safe?" - CWA investigations at pptv-levels

The threat of Chemical Warfare Agents (CWAs) is very real as has been shown in the recent past by the assassinations at KL airport (2017) and in Salisbury (2018). Unfortunately, due to the current armed conflicts in Europe, it could remain topical in the near future. From an analytical point of view, the detection of high CWA concentrations in air during and immediately after an attack is relatively simple even with handheld devices. However, verifying that large surfaces (e.g. the floor of an airport) are indeed clean and safe following standardized decontamination procedures is currently not possible because of the lack of suitable analytical instrumentation. 
The IONICON Proton-Transfer-Reaction – Time-Of-Flight (PTR-TOF) technology is a real-time direct injection trace gas analysis method with extremely high sensitivity, selectivity and excellent Limits-of-Detection (LoDs). In combination with the proprietary Automated Measurement and data Evaluation (AME) software no trained scientist is necessary to operate the PTR-TOF and to interpret the obtained data. AME ”translates” the scientific data into straight-forward graphical compound concentration readings. Therefore, IONICON PTR-TOF is the ideal tool for real-time trace gas monitoring and control. 

Results of CWA measurement campaigns

In most scientific literature on CWA measurements, analogues have been used because of the restricted access to live agents even for analytical purposes. We therefore took our compact PTR-TOF devices to measurement campaigns at certified facilities in the Czech Republic and in Austria. 
At the first campaign we found that our patented (EP3503161) NH4+ reagent ion production method is particularly beneficial for sensitive CWA detection. Even with the most compact PTR-TOF QB model (two stackable and separable 19" cubes) we determined 1 s LoDs between 10 and 30 pptv (10-12) for the CWAs nitrogen mustard, soman, sarin, cyclosarin, tabun and VX. 
For the second campaign we utilized a high mass resolution PTR-TOF 6000 to investigate residual CWA gas phase concentrations above various surfaces (from metal and glass to pig skin) before and after decontamination with different common decontamination agents. We found that only after the treatment with some of these agents and only for absolutely smooth surfaces no residual contamination could be detected anymore. 
These results confirm that IONICON PTR-TOF is indeed perfectly suited for the real-time verification of the absence of highly toxic compounds, such as CWAs.

Real-time detection of CWAs with PTR-TOF