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Nanomaterials for Security Applications

25 March 2013


William Peveler

Detection of CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive) substances with great sensitivity and selectivity is a crucial tool for military and civil security personnel. In particular the detection of explosives is a key priority for the military and police. Explosives come in many varieties, and any detection devices must not only be able to indicate the presence of tiny amounts of material, quickly and accurately, but also the nature of the threat – what types of material are present. In addition to threat detection, the use of explosives on testing ranges presents an environmental problem, with residues leaching into groundwater. Therefore robust, portable and effective environmental monitoring must be implemented at such locations. Nanomaterials have been used to great effect in many fields, including medicine and security. Their novel properties have allowed exquisite detection of complex molecules, with selectivity and sensitivity. This study hopes to address the detection challenges described above by combining the fluorescent properties of quantum dots and other nanomaterials, with supramolecular moieties for solution based and hopefully vapour based detection of a range of molecules. We will investigate macrocycles and other supramolecular sytems for their specificity to certain CBRNE materials and environmental pollutants. The supramolecular moieties will then be linked to the nanomaterials to create a sensing system, based around turn-off or turn-on fluorescence. The project will cover aspects of organic and inorganic chemical synthesis, analytical spectroscopy and spectrometry, and systems engineering. Contact has been initiated with Dstl with the aim of obtaining access to CBRNE materials and project advice.