Detection of Nonvolatile Inorganic Oxidizer-Based Explosives from Wipe Collections by Infrared Thermal DesorptionDirect Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometry

Infrared thermal desorption (IRTD) was coupled with direct analysis in real time mass spectrometry (DART-MS) for the detection of both inorganic and organic explosives from wipe collected samples. This platform generated discrete and rapid heating rates that allowed volatile and semivolatile organic explosives to thermally desorb at relatively lower temperatures, while still achieving elevated temperatures required to desorb nonvolatile inorganic oxidizer-based explosives. IRTD-DART-MS demonstrated the thermal desorption and detection of refractory potassium chlorate and potassium perchlorate oxidizers, compounds difficult to desorb with traditional moderate-temperature resistance-based thermal desorbers. Nanogram to sub-nanogram sensitivities were established for analysis of a range of organic and inorganic oxidizer-based explosive compounds, with further enhancement limited by the thermal properties of the most common commercial wipe materials. Detailed investigations and high-speed visualization revealed conduction from the heated glass–mica base plate as the dominant process for heating of the wipe and analyte materials, resulting in thermal desorption through boiling, aerosolization, and vaporization of samples. The thermal desorption and ionization characteristics of the IRTD-DART technique resulted in optimal sensitivity for the formation of nitrate adducts with both organic and inorganic species. The IRTD-DART-MS coupling and IRTD in general offer promising explosive detection capabilities to the defense, security, and law enforcement arenas.