Signature Science LLC
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Explosives Threat Analysis
Our Approach
sigsci_contact_chipuk_1.pngOur chemists have expertise in multiple aspects of explosives-related research, including signature discovery, sample collection, preparation and analytical method development, synthesis of explosive materials, and training. Our approach to a particular project is customized based on Client goals and objectives. Safety is emphasized on all explosives-related projects.

Signature discovery projects focus on first investigating the production, storage, deployment, and detonation of the materials of interest. Sample collection, preparation, and analytical methods development projects involve an assessment of traditional methodologies (e.g., EPA methods), but also leverage the prior experience gained by our chemists in the field and in the lab (see Chemical Detection). Because explosive-related materials are not always available as certified standards, our chemists synthesize and purify the necessary explosives or novel explosives-related signatures to provide material for the laboratory research.

In addition to laboratory-based experiments, field-based experiments are routinely designed and executed to validate collection and analysis protocols for explosives-related signatures following assembly of unexploded devices (see CBRNE Field Testing).

We develop and deliver training courses focused on the topics of interest and tailored to the Client and type of expected and organic explosive signatures students (scientific/non-scientific backgrounds, military/civil/government personnel) (see CBRNE Technical Training). Past courses have included instruction on the types and characteristics of military-grade and home-made explosives (HME); sample collection and the importance of sample integrity; operation of analytical instrumentation; and assembly, deployment, and detonation. We also design, set-up, and challenge students in our training courses with rogue laboratory scenarios.

Our Staff
The Signature Science Chemistry Group is staffed by scientists who specialize in organic, analytical, nuclear, polymer, inorganic, and environmental chemistry. Our chemists' experience includes:
  • Preparation and chemical synthesis of a wide range of compounds including chemical agent precursors, non-CWC chemical agents, explosives, natural products, and commodities from the milligram-to plant-scale
  • Expertise in advanced mass spectrometry and ambient ionization techniques
  • Extensive experience in radiochemistry, nuclear forensics, with field-portable and laboratory bench-top analytical instrumentation used for nuclear signature detection
  • Synthesis of a wide variety of polymers from conventional to functionalized polymers
  • Working with Schlenk line apparatus and hazardous explosive materials
  • Characterization of samples using molecular spectroscopy techniques including UV-Vis, fluorescence and FTIR
  • Many years of experience developing sample collection, preparation, and analytical methods for a wide range of inorganic and organic explosive signatures

Specialized Equipment/Facilities
In our Austin-based Chemical Laboratory, we maintain a variety of sample preparation equipment and analytical instrumentation capable of analyzing most types of explosive samples. Gas chromatographs (GCs), high performance liquid chromatographs (HPLCs), and ultra-high pressure liquid chromatographs (UPLCs) are coupled to a variety of mass spectrometers (including single and triple quadrupoles, linear quadrupole ion traps, and high resolution Orbitraps). Several ionization techniques are available to complement our mass spectrometry instruments, including ambient ionization techniques such as desorption electrospray ionization (DESI), desorption atmospheric chemical ionization (DAPCI), and direct analysis in real-time (DART), in addition to the traditional ionization methods (electron ionization (EI), chemical ionization (CI), electrospray ionization (ESI), atmospheric pressure chemical ionization (APCI)). To complete our analytical suite, the following spectroscopy techniques are available: ultraviolet-visible-near infrared spectrophotometry (UV-VIS-NIR), fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) (transmittance and attenuated total reflection (ATR)), fluorimetry, and Raman.

Applications
  • Sample collection, preparation, and analytical method development
  • Signature discovery
  • Training
  • Designing and building sample collection devices
  • Designing and implementing field tests
Current and Past Experience Customer Listing
Signature Science has recent and ongoing experience working with the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and related agencies.