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Explosive Trace Sampling from Fingers


Automatic Device for Sampling Trace Explosive Concentrations from the Fingers is a Key Component of a Walk-through Portal of a Security System

Tech Area / Field

  • CHE-ANL/Analytical Chemistry/Chemistry
  • INS-DET/Detection Devices/Instrumentation

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Research Institute of Technology, Russia, Leningrad reg., Sosnovy Bor

Supporting institutes

  • Siberian Branch of RAS / Design & Technological Institute of Instrument Engineering for Geophysics and Ecology, Russia, Novosibirsk reg., Novosibirsk


  • Institut fuer Umwelttechnologien GmbH (I.U.T), Germany, Berlin\nSmiths Detection, Canada, ON, Mississauga

Project summary

Project Objective:

The purpose of the project is to develop a system for taking samples of trace explosives from human fingers in such a way that a person is not aware of this. The system will be connected to a gas analyzer installed in a walk-through portal of security service.

Project Tasks:

The scope of the project activities is proposed as follows:

  • to develop a rapid method and means for taking an explosive trace deposit on the finger surface to the vapor form and carrying an analyze sample to a gas analyzer provided in the walk-through portal.
  • to design and manufacture a prototype of the sampling device;
  • to test the prototype and determine its main analytical characteristics;
  • to define potential applications of the proposed automatic sampling device.


The problem of explosives detection is of current importance in view of growing terrorism in the world. The terrorism threat is a special concern of security services at nuclear power plants, airports, and government offices, because the effect of a terrorist attack on any of the mentioned aims might be an ecological disaster, numerous casualties, or loss of government control functions. To prevent such attacks, a security service should be provided with efficient technical means of identifying potential intruders and detecting dangerous chemicals.

A necessary part of any safeguard system is a walk-through portal equipped with a metal detector and an X-ray unit. As to detection of explosives, the problem can be most effectively resolved by using gas analysis detectors.

Gas analysis instruments “smell” explosives, like trained dogs do. Therefore, the detecting instruments are most effectively used to check spots where explosives or their traces can be most probably found. These could be people fingers, because a person cannot handle an explosive charge with his fingers kept absolutely free of at least explosive traces. Such traces cannot be removed even by washing. Explosive traces may remain on hands for as long as a few days.

Therefore, the use of specially-designed explosive samplers would much improve the performance of security systems, specifically, checkpoints or walk-through portals.

Scope of Activity:

The estimated project duration is two years.

The total project cost is 157,000 USD

For the first project year, it is planned to design a test rig and carry out explosive detection experiments using the newly developed rapid methods and means for taking vapor samples of trace explosives deposited on fingers and transferring the samples into a gas analysis unit. Various indirect-contact methods to make a deposited explosive evaporate from the finger surface will be tried out. Among these are the supply of convective hot air containing highly absorptive chemical vapors able to abstract trace explosives from the finger surface, the exposure of fingers to high-intensity light flash, the application of high-level ion current, etc.

For the second year, the project authors are planning to design and manufacture a model prototype of the described automatic sampler as part of the gas analysis detector system in a walk-through portal. The prototype will be tested under real operating conditions, its analytical characteristics will be specified, and potential applications will be suggested.


The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia with their peers and research organizations in the EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States.


ISTC facilitates international science projects and assists the global scientific and business community to source and engage with CIS and Georgian institutes that develop or possess an excellence of scientific know-how.

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