Use of mass spectrometric vapor analysis to improve canine explosive detection efficiency
June 9, 2017
Canines remain the gold standard for explosives detection in many situations, and there is an ongoing desire for them to perform at the highest level. This goal requires canine training to be approached similarly to scientific sensor design. Developing a canine training regimen is made challenging by a lack of understanding of the canine's odor environment, which is dynamic and typically contains multiple odorants. Existing methodology assumes that the handler's intention is an adequate surrogate for actual knowledge of the odors cuing the canine, but canines are easily exposed to unintentional explosive odors through training material cross-contamination. A sensitive, real-time (~1 s) vapor analysis mass spectrometer was developed to provide tools, techniques, and knowledge to better understand, train, and utilize canines. The instrument has a detection library of nine explosives and explosive-related materials consisting of 2,4-dinitrotoluene (2,4-DNT), 2,6-dinitrotoluene (2,6-DNT), 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT), nitroglycerin (NG), 1,3,5-trinitroperhydro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX), pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN), triacetone triperoxide (TATP), hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD), and cyclohexanone, with detection limits in the parts-per-trillion to parts-per-quadrillion range by volume. The instrument can illustrate aspects of vapor plume dynamics, such as detecting plume filaments at a distance. The instrument was deployed to support canine training in the field, detecting cross-contamination among training materials, and developing an evaluation method based on the odor environment. Support for training material production and handling was provided by studying the dynamic headspace of a nonexplosive HMTD training aid that is in development. These results supported existing canine training and identified certain areas that may be improved.