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Anal Chem. 2009 Mar 1;81(5):1952-6. doi: 10.1021/ac802364e.

Standoff spectroscopy of surface adsorbed chemicals.

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  • 1Biosciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831, USA.


Despite its immediate applications, selective detection of trace quantities of surface adsorbed chemicals, such as explosives, without physically collecting the sample molecules is a challenging task. Standoff spectroscopic techniques offer an ideal method of detecting chemicals without using a sample collection step. Though standoff spectroscopic techniques are capable of providing high selectivity, their demonstrated sensitivities are poor. Here we describe standoff detection of trace quantities of surface adsorbed chemicals using two quantum cascade lasers operated simultaneously, with tunable wavelength windows that match with absorption peaks of the analytes. This standoff method is a variation of photoacoustic spectroscopy, where scattered light from the sample surface is used for exciting acoustic resonance of the detector. We demonstrate a sensitivity of 100 ng/cm(2) and a standoff detection distance of 20 m for surface adsorbed analytes such as explosives and tributyl phosphate.

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