Nanosniffer – NSPL ETD

Nanosniffer-NSPL ETD is an instrument which consists of a MEMS Microheater that acts as a Sensor.

Other components are Data Acquisition & Processing Electronics, Flow-Cell Assembly, User Interface, Power Elements etc.

Selective and sensitive detection of explosives is very important in countering terrorist threats. Detecting trace explosives has become a very complex and expensive endeavour because of a number of factors, such as the wide variety of materials that can be used as explosives, the lack of easily detectable signatures, the vast number of avenues by which these weapons can be deployed, and the lack of inexpensive sensors with high sensitivity and selectivity. Most common explosives have extremely low vapour pressures at ambient temperature. The very low vapour pressures indicate that these molecules are extremely sticky and tend to adsorb to surfaces very easily. Therefore, the sensing device must be highly sensitive. The ETDs in the market lack high selectivity – their sensors show false positives for common analytes such as water vapour, perfumes, smoke, shoe polish etc. Therefore, high sensitivity & high selectivity & low deployment cost of instruments is desirable in an ETD product.


Based on Microsensors, High Sensitivity & High Speed Electronic Instrumentation, and Intelligent Mathematical Algorithms.
Nanosniff’s MEMS Microheater based ETD instrument satisfies all the requirements of an effective platform for the trace detection of explosives. Its Physics based approach uses Micro Differential Thermal Analysis) to distinguish explosives from non-explosives. The Micro-DTA facilitates recording of a calorimetric profile for nanograms of materials when they are rapidly heated to high temperature. The profile comprises a combination of sublimation, melting, evaporation and deflagration for the sample material. Using this profile, it is possible to distinguish explosives from non-explosives. The detection decision is backed by high-speed algorithms & sophisticated signal processing algorithms. Currently it can detect even less than 10 nanograms of explosives. The sensitivity capability was validated by HEMRL (DRDO Lab at Pune). Our approach has been to detect ‘classes’ of explosives; we have been successful in that. Since the approach is Physics based – it applies to other materials of the same class.


In the use case scenario, the user will ‘swipe’ the surface of persons, vehicles, & bags; and will collect explosives particles on a Swipe. This Swipe will be inserted into the instrument, where, through certain techniques, the collected sample will be transferred to the Microheater sensor. Using the principle of differential calorimetry the Microheater detects whether the sample collected on the Swipe was an explosive or not.

Features & Specifications:

  • Start-up Time: 3 minutes from cold.
  • Sampling: Swipes are used for collecting the samples.
  • Sample phase: Trace particles.
  • Analysis Time: 8 seconds.
  • Sensitivity: Can detect less than 10 ng of Explosives Traces.
  • Selectivity: Less than 3% false positive.
  • Alerts: Visible & audible alerts with sunlight-readable colour display
  • Explosives Detected: Detects all Classes military, conventional, homemade explosives.
  • Purging Duration: Less than 1 Minute.

List of Illustrative (but not limited to) Classes & Explosives that can be Detected:

  • Nitramines: RDX, HMX etc
  • Nitroesters: PETN etc
  • Nitroaromatics: TNT etc
  • Nitrosamines: R-Salt
  • Peroxides: TATP
  • Inorganic Nitrates: Ammonium Nitrate & Urea Nitrate with Fuel Oil
  • Chlorate & Perchlorates: KClO4 with Phosphorous
  • Smokeless powder: NitroGlycerine, Ethyl Centralite etc
  • Plastic Explosives: PEK, LTPE, Sheet Explosives

System Interface:

  • Data Management: Export to Users’ PC data storage through USB.
  • Data storage: Stores upto 12000 Tests’ Data Internally.
  • User levels: Operator and Administrator.
  • Ambient Operating Temperature: -5 °C to 55°C.
  • Operating Humidity: 5% to 90% RH non-condensing.
  • Storage temperature: -10 °C to 50°C.

System weight and Dimensions:

  • Length: 360 mm
  • Width: 150 mm
  • Height: 260 mm
  • Weight: 3.8 kg


Nanosniffer runs independently on: (i) Battery; and (ii) House AC Power (through adapter).


1 Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery (> 4 Hours backup), chargeable via 230V/110V, 50/60Hz Adapter & Dock Station.