Walker, N. R.; Linman M. J.; Timmers, M. M.; Dean S. L.; Burkett, C. M.; Lloyd, J. A.; Keelor, J. D.; Baughman, B. M.; Edmiston, P.L. “Selective Detection of Gas-Phase TNT by Integrated Optical Waveguide Spectrometry Using Molecularly Imprinted Sol-Gel Sensing Films.” Analytica Chimica Acta 593: 82-91 (2007).



A chemical sensor was developed to detect the explosive 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) utilizing planar integrated optical waveguide (IOW) attenuated total reflection spectrometry. Submicron thick films of organically modified sol–gel polymers were deposited on the waveguide surface as the sensing layer. Sol–gels were molecularly imprinted for TNT using covalently bound template molecules linked to the matrix through 1 or 2 carbamate linkages. Upon chemical cleavage of the template and displacement of the TNT-like pendant groups from the matrix, shape-selective binding sites were created that possess a primary amine group. The amine was used to deprotonate bound TNT yielding an anionic form that absorbs visible light. Binding of TNT and subsequent conversion to the anion results in the attenuation of light propagating through the waveguide, thus creating a spectrophotometric device. Sensitivity can be achieved by taking advantage of the substantial pathlength provided by the use of single mode IOWs. The limit-of-detection to gas-phase TNT was found to be five parts-per-billion (ppbV) in ambient air at a flow rate of 40 mL min−1 given a 60 s sampling time. The sensor is highly selective for TNT due to the selectivity of binding site recognition of TNT and the subsequent generation of the TNT anion. Response to TNT is not reversible which results in an integrating sensor device which, in theory, can improve the ability to detect small amounts of the explosive if the exposure time is sufficient in length.