Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

José R. Almirall

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Yong Cai

Third Advisor's Name

Anthony DeCaprio

Fourth Advisor's Name

Rudolf Jaffe

Fifth Advisor's Name

Wenzhi Li


Planar solid phase microextraction (PSPME), Solid phase microextraction (SPME), Ion mobility spectrometer (IMS), Gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS), military explosive, smokeless powder, receiver operating characteristic curve (ROC), Vapor calibration, Microdrop generation

Date of Defense



The growing need for fast sampling of explosives in high throughput areas has increased the demand for improved technology for the trace detection of illicit compounds. Detection of the volatiles associated with the presence of the illicit compounds offer a different approach for sensitive trace detection of these compounds without increasing the false positive alarm rate. This study evaluated the performance of non-contact sampling and detection systems using statistical analysis through the construction of Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curves in real-world scenarios for the detection of volatiles in the headspace of smokeless powder, used as the model system for generalizing explosives detection. A novel sorbent coated disk coined planar solid phase microextraction (PSPME) was previously used for rapid, non-contact sampling of the headspace containers. The limits of detection for the PSPME coupled to IMS detection was determined to be 0.5-24 ng for vapor sampling of volatile chemical compounds associated with illicit compounds and demonstrated an extraction efficiency of three times greater than other commercially available substrates, retaining >50% of the analyte after 30 minutes sampling of an analyte spike in comparison to a non-detect for the unmodified filters. Both static and dynamic PSPME sampling was used coupled with two ion mobility spectrometer (IMS) detection systems in which 10-500 mg quantities of smokeless powders were detected within 5-10 minutes of static sampling and 1 minute of dynamic sampling time in 1-45 L closed systems, resulting in faster sampling and analysis times in comparison to conventional solid phase microextraction-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (SPME-GC-MS) analysis. Similar real-world scenarios were sampled in low and high clutter environments with zero false positive rates. Excellent PSPME-IMS detection of the volatile analytes were visualized from the ROC curves, resulting with areas under the curves (AUC) of 0.85-1.0 and 0.81-1.0 for portable and bench-top IMS systems, respectively. Construction of ROC curves were also developed for SPME-GC-MS resulting with AUC of 0.95-1.0, comparable with PSPME-IMS detection. The PSPME-IMS technique provides less false positive results for non-contact vapor sampling, cutting the cost and providing an effective sampling and detection needed in high-throughput scenarios, resulting in similar performance in comparison to well-established techniques with the added advantage of fast detection in the field.





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