Lifetimes and Decomposition Rates of Explosive Gas Ions in Air at Ambient Pressure

Download Project Report (Phase 2, Year 3)

Project Description

Technology used today in airports to detect explosives in the air is dependent on the vaporization of explosive particulate, the ionization of these vapors, and then measurement of the ions for characteristic mobilities in weak electric fields.


These ions have lifetimes on the millisecond time scales and will quickly decompose to undetectable products which cannot be detected.  Thus, knowledge of the lifetimes and dependences of lifetimes on temperature in air at ambient pressure is vital in understanding the response of present trace explosive detectors and in designs or engineering for future technologies based on common or related principles.


In this project, we have developed technology and methods which permits the determination of lifetimes and other parameters that tell about the rates of decomposition of gas ions of explosives under conditions identical to those inside the more than 20,000 explosives detectors distributed in airports worldwide.


These measurements have established first ever understandings and parameters for decomposition of explosive ions.  In our first stage, a broad range of explosive materials was examined and detailed measurements made for nitroesters.  In the next stage, we are examining some substances not immediately accessible to characterization and extending into materials used in improvised explosive devices.


A completely new database for explosives was formed [by this project], expanding our knowledge of these materials
Biennial Review
Project Leader
  • Gary A. Eiceman
    New Mexico State University

Faculty and Staff Currently Involved in Project
  • John Stone
    Queens University

  • Avi Cagan
    Research Professor
    New Mexico State University

Students Currently Involved in Project
  • Maneeshin Rajapakse
    New Mexico State University
  • Peter Fowler
    New Mexico State University
  • Alexandra Juarez
    New Mexico State University