2013 Volume 2 Issue Special_Issue Pages S0008
The present paper demonstrates the detection of explosives in solution using thermal desorption technique at a temperature higher than Leidenfrost temperature of the solvent in combination with low temperature plasma (LTP) ionization. Leidenfrost temperature of a solvent is the temperature above which the solvent droplet starts levitation instead of splashing when placed on a hot metallic surface. During this desorption process, slow and gentle solvent evaporation takes place, which leads to the pre-concentration of less-volatile explosive molecules in the droplet and the explosive molecules are released at the last moment of droplet evaporation. The limits of detection for explosives studied by using this thermal desorption LTP ionization method varied in a range of 1 to 10 parts per billion (ppb) using a droplet volume of 20 μL (absolute sample amount 90–630 fmol). As LTP ionization method was applied and ion–molecule reactions took place in ambient atmosphere, various ion–molecule adduct species like [M+NO2]−, [M+NO3]−, [M+HCO3]−, [M+HCO4]− were generated together with [M−H]− peak. Each peak was unambiguously identified using ‘Exactive Orbitrap’ mass spectrometer in negative ionization mode within 3 ppm deviation compared to its exact mass. This newly developed technique was successfully applied to detect four explosives contained in the pond water and soil sample with minor sample pre-treatment and the explosives were detected with ppb levels. The present method is simple, rapid and can detect trace levels of explosives with high specificity from solutions.