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Following The Paper Trail To Identify Threats
by Chemical and Biological Technologies Department, DTRA
March 31, 2018

In the fight to combat chemical and biological weapons agents, every resource is utilized to protect warfighters, even common household items. It may sound fictitious, but researchers for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department are using paper and glass to improve chemical and biological agent detection capabilities for our nation’s warfighters.

The analyte (red) potentially in a complex matrix such as blood and urine. The paper itself could be used to directly collect samples from the air. (Graphic courtesy of Trevor Glaros, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center - January 2018)
The analyte (red) potentially in a complex matrix such as blood and urine. The paper itself could be used to directly collect samples from the air. (Graphic courtesy of Trevor Glaros, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center - January 2018)

Managed by DTRA CB’s Kathleen Quinn, the Paper Spray Program conducted at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) is working to validate paper spray mass spectrometry as a simple, robust and universal method for chemical and biological detection. Paper spraying will compliment sample analysis when using a mass spectrometer.

Paper is used to collect the sample, and a mass spectrometer ionizes chemicals in the sample to measure the mass. The commercialized-off-the-shelf technology, available from Prosolia, Inc., is being adapted to improve the detection of chemical agents from complex clinical and environmental backgrounds. Researchers have already identified alternative substrates to improve analysis of aerosolized simulants.

Researchers at ECBC successfully identified ammonium sulfate-treated glass fibers as an alternative substrate to paper for improved spraying and identification of chemical warfare simulants.

Paper spray mass spectrometry technology uses ambient ionization – a form of ionization that occurs directly outside of the inlet to the mass spectrometer in normal atmospheric conditions. This method is ideal for deployed warfighters as it requires minimal preparation and results are highly effective for detecting a wide range of analytes including small molecules. In addition, this method can distinguish between bacteria by detecting peptides and intact proteins. The technology can also be utilized in the analysis of samples from complex environments including surfaces, food, blood, urine and tissue.

While several ambient ionization sources are available commercially, paper spray ionization offers the most potential for fielded ruggedized mass spectrometers. A key advantage is that samples can be stored directly on the paper with no need for a cold chain. For deployed warfighters, samples can be returned to reference labs for analysis.

DTRA will continue to fund this promising technology while expanding it to detect biological agents. Providing warfighters with simpler and quicker detection for chemical and biological agents is vital to speeding response and ensuring successful combat operations.

by Chemical and Biological Technologies Department, DTRA
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2018

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