Defense Date


Document Type

Directed Research Project

First Advisor

Nastassja Lewinski

Second Advisor

Eric Hazelrigg

Third Advisor

Chad Schennum


Trinitrotoluene (TNT) is an explosive commonly used during military and terrorist activities. Current methods to identify this compound require sampling, transport and analysis at a forensic lab using analytical instrumentation. However, on-site detection is needed to assist efforts to prevent detonation. Gold nanoparticles have been used as sensors throughout the years due to their versatility and surface enhanced Raman scattering properties in the presence of an analyte and low limits of detection. By taking advantage of the Meisenheimer complex that TNT forms in the presence of amines, it is possible to determine its presence at picogram levels. Subsequently, adhering amine functionalized gold nanoparticles to a filter membrane creates a filter-based sensor that allows for testing air samples at the suspected area. In the presence of TNT, the gold nanoparticle containing filter will change color and alert the analyst that TNT is present. The amine functionalized gold nanoparticles were synthesized using a modified Turkevich method. These nanoparticles were characterized via transmission electron microscopy, dynamic light scattering, and electrophoretic mobility to determine the primary and hydrodynamic particle sizes as well as zeta potential. Reagents and nanoparticles were added to different Whatman filters and the sensitivity of the filters was then tested by adding TNT at different concentrations. A goal for this device could be use in military missions where landmines may be present. With further analysis and optimization of this proposed device, it may be possible to identify the presence of TNT before an explosive detonates and possibly save lives.


© The Author(s)

Is Part Of

VCU Master of Science in Forensic Science Directed Research Projects

Date of Submission


Available for download on Wednesday, May 11, 2022


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