Photoluminescent Polymers Detect Explosives | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: May 29, 2008

Photoluminescent Polymers Detect Explosives

A rapid, simple test can detect high explosives in less than one minute
Department: Science & Technology
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EXPLOSIVE ANSWERS
Trace amounts of TNT on a person???s hand quench the blue photoluminescence of a silafluorine-fluorine polymer.
Credit: J. Mater. Chem.
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EXPLOSIVE ANSWERS
Trace amounts of TNT on a person???s hand quench the blue photoluminescence of a silafluorine-fluorine polymer.
Credit: J. Mater. Chem.

Three silafluorine-fluorine polymers can quickly and easily detect minute quantities of explosives left behind on surfaces. Jason C. Sanchez and William C. Trogler at the University of California, San Diego, synthesized these stable, photoluminescent polymers through a series of hydrosilylation reactions between 1,1-dihydridosilafluorene and various diethynylfluorenes (J. Mater. Chem., DOI: 10.1039/b802623h). The polymers normally emit blue light when illuminated with ultraviolet radiation. The researchers report that a thin layer of these polymers sprayed on a suspect surface can detect nitrogen-based explosives such as trinitrotoluene (TNT) after only 30 seconds. The explosives absorb the electrons emitted by the illuminated polymers and quench the blue glow. The presence of as little as a picogram of explosive will cause this quenching, resulting in a dark spot on a film surrounded by the blue light from the polymers. Other explosives, such as pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN), emit a green glow when reacting with the polymers. The authors suggest that law enforcement officers could use this technology with minimal training to quickly and easily detect small amounts of a variety of explosives.

 
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