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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/C008081/1
Title: Rapid in-field detection of inorganic species of explosives significance by microfabricated (Lab-on-a-Chip) multidimensional isotachophoresis.
Principal Investigator: Fielden, Professor PR
Other Investigators:
Treves Brown, Dr BJ Goddard, Professor N
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr J E Prest
Project Partners:
Department: Chem Eng and Analytical Science
Organisation: University of Manchester, The
Scheme: Standard Research (Pre-FEC)
Starts: 01 April 2005 Ends: 31 March 2007 Value (£): 176,688
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Analytical Science Instrumentation Eng. & Dev.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
The increase in the number of terrorist bombings in recent years has generated an increased demand for the rapid analysis of explosive materials and post-explosion residues. Although many incidents involve the use of organic explosives (materials such as TNT, RDX etc), a significant number involve the use of inorganic explosives such as ammonium nitrate. There are rapid field detection systems, often based on techniques such as ion mobility spectrometry (IMS), that are able to detect organic explosives, but these techniques are not applicable to inorganic explosives. This proposal is targeted towards the development of a field instrument for the detection of inorganic ions of explosives significance.The need for a technique, in addition to ion chromatography (IC) and Capillary Electrophoresis (CE), for detection of inorganic species of explosives significance has been firmly established as these methodologies suffer from limited dynamic ranges and excessively long analysis times. For these reasons, isotachophoresis (ITP) is proposed as a robust technique for analysis of inorganic ions.In ITP, the sample is injected between a leading and a terminating electrolyte in a narrow separation capillary. Unlike CE, a background electrolyte is not used. The leading electrolyte contains an ion having a mobility higher than that of the sample ions, while the terminating electrolyte contains an ion having a mobility lower than that of the sample. When a current is passed through the capillary, the sample separates into a series of contiguous zones, one zone for each ion of distinct mobility. The composition of each zone is constant, and the length of each zone is proportional to the ion concentration in the original sample. When the separation is complete, the zones all travel at constant speed along the capillary. The ion concentration in each zone is controlled by the concentration of the leading ion.These characteristics have a number of useful consequences. Firstly, one does not need to measure the concentration of the ion in each zone. All one needs to do is measure the length of each zone, and knowing the leading ion concentration and the volume of the original sample one can determine the original ion concentration. Secondly, the zones do not spread out by diffusion as long as the separation current is maintained. Finally, the zones boundaries can be detected by the change in conductivity that occurs because the ionic mobility in each zone is lower than in the preceding zone.Some of the ionic separations required for this application are quite difficult to achieve in a single channel. In this proposal we intend to develop plastic separation chips that incorporate a number of channels and run different separations in each one. This has the advantage that we can compare the results from different channels and check the consistency. For example, if we can independently determine a particular ion in two channels and we get significantly different results from the two separations, we know that there is a problem and the results may not be valid.We will also be developing a portable instrument into which the plastic separation chips can be inserted. This will allow police officers to perform analyses at the scene, eliminating the current delays while samples are returned to the laboratory.
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Organisation Website: http://www.man.ac.uk