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Identification of inorganic improvised explosive devices using sequential injection capillary electrophoresis and contactless conductivity detection

journal contribution
posted on 2011-01-01, 00:00 authored by Gustavo A Blanco, Ryan Nai, Emily F Hilder, Robert ShellieRobert Shellie, Greg W Dicinoski, Paul R Haddad, Michael C Breadmore
A simple sequential injection capillary electrophoresis (SI-CE) instrument with capacitively coupled contactless conductivity detection (C(4)D) has been developed for the rapid separation of anions relevant to the identification of inorganic improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Four of the most common explosive tracer ions, nitrate, perchlorate, chlorate, and azide, and the most common background ions, chloride, sulfate, thiocyanate, fluoride, phosphate, and carbonate, were chosen for investigation. Using a separation electrolyte comprising 50 mM tris(hydroxymethyl)aminomethane, 50 mM cyclohexyl-2-aminoethanesulfonic acid, pH 8.9 and 0.05% poly(ethyleneimine) (PEI) in a hexadimethrine bromide (HDMB)-coated capillary it was possible to partially separate all 10 ions within 90 s. The combination of two cationic polymer additives (PEI and HDMB) was necessary to achieve adequate selectivity with a sufficiently stable electroosmotic flow (EOF), which was not possible with only one polymer. Careful optimization of variables affecting the speed of separation and injection timing allowed a further reduction of separation time to 55 s while maintaining adequate efficiency and resolution. Software control makes high sample throughput possible (60 samples/h), with very high repeatability of migration times [0.63-2.07% relative standard deviation (RSD) for 240 injections]. The separation speed does not compromise sensitivity, with limits of detection ranging from 23 to 50 μg·L(-1) for all the explosive residues considered, which is 10× lower than those achieved by indirect absorbance detection and 2× lower than those achieved by C(4)D using portable benchtop instrumentation. The combination of automation, high sample throughput, high confidence of peak identification, and low limits of detection makes this methodology ideal for the rapid identification of inorganic IED residues.



Analytical chemistry






9068 - 9075


American Chemical Society


Washington, D.C.





Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2011, American Chemical Society