Orthogonal Sensors for Trace Detection

Download Project Report (Phase 2, Year 7)

Project Description

Terrorism involving the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has become all too common in today’s society, often with lethal consequences. IEDs using explosives such as triacetone triperoxide (TATP) still go largely undetected in densely populated venues.

For example, TATP has been used in a number of recent terror attacks including the 2015 Paris attacks, the 2016 Brussels Airport bombings, and the 2017 concert bombing in Manchester, UK. Thus, there is a need for a continuous explosive monitoring system that can compete with a “dog’s nose” to sniff out these explosive vapors. Ideally, such an electronic trace detection (ETD) system would be able to warn the public of a potential attack or be used to screen for potential threats at airports.

We have developed a detection system can detect TATP, 2,4-Dinitrotoluene (DNT), and ammonium nitrate vapors at the parts-per billion level with superb selectivity. Not only can our sensors detect the presence of an energetic molecule, it can also quantify the amount of explosive present in the vapor phase.

These sensors also address a critical issue for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS): false alarms. Using built-in redundancies and orthogonal modalities, we can mitigate false positives and negatives.



Our portable ETD system will provide a complementary tool to the existing Homeland Security enterprise toolbox, and can enhance current technologies used for the screening of explosives at checkpoints and ports of entry.
Year 4 Annual Report
Project Leader
  • Otto J. Gregory
    URI Center for Sensor and Instrumentation Research

Faculty and Staff Currently Involved in Project
  • Alan Davis
    Research Professor
    Naval Undersea Welfare Center/URI

Students Currently Involved in Project
  • Alyssa Kelly
    University of Rhode Island