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Trace Detection of Nitrocompounds by ArF Laser Photofragmentation/Ionization Spectrometry

Volume 47, Number 11 (Nov. 1993) Page 1907-1912

Simeonsson, Josef B.; Lemire, George W.; Sausa, Rosario C.


A new method for detecting trace vapors of NO2-containing compounds near atmospheric conditions has been demonstrated with the use of one-color-laser photofragmentation/ionization spectrometry. An ArF laser is employed to both photolytically fragment the target molecules in a collision-free environment and ionize the characteristic NO fragments. The production of NO is hypothesized to result from a combination of two NO2 unimolecular fragmentation pathways, one yielding NO in its X2Π electronic ground state and the other in its A2Σ+ excited state. Ionization of ground-state NO molecules is accomplished by resonance-enhanced multiphoton ionization processes via its A2Σ+X2Π (3, 0), B2Π ← X2Π (7, 0) and/or D2Σ+X2Π (0, 1) bands at 193 nm. The analytical utility of this method is demonstrated in a molecular beam time-of-flight apparatus. Limits of detection range from the parts-per-million (ppm) to parts-per-billion (ppb) level for NO, NO2, CH3NO2, dimethylnitramine (DMNA), ortho- and meta-nitrotoluene, nitrobenzene, and trinitrotoluene (TNT). Under effusive beam experimental conditions, discrimination between structural isomers, ortho-nitrotoluene and meta-nitrotoluene, has been demonstrated with the use of their characteristic photofragmentation/ionization mass spectra.