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The use of standards is considered a critical component in the assurance of analytical quality, allowing reliable measures of detection limits, accuracy, and reproducibility. These standards may be in the form of physical materials (test or reference materials), vetted data, validated algorithms, calibration services, and standard methods and practices.


NIST is developing a variety of standards and test materials to support the effective operation of trace explosive detection devices. Trace sampling issues are addressed through fundamental studies on the adhesion and collection of particles, by both swiping and air-jet harvesting procedures. These studies are leading to the development of realistic standard particles, produced by inkjet technology, and standard methods for collection. Trace detection issues in commercially available instruments are being addressed for particles and vapors. Trace reference swipes, containing a designed blend of explosive compound, matrix binders, and background contaminants, are being produced for intercomparison exercises. The NIST trace vapor generator ("vaporjet") has been recently modified and used for testing several vapor detectors. Issues regarding pulsed and continuous vapor generation, and the presence of background contamination in the standard vapor, are being addressed.

Major Accomplishments

Trace Explosive Test Materials

Trace Drugs-of-Abuse Test Materials

Piezoelectric Trace Explosive Calibrator

Standard Method for Determining Limits of Detection in Trace Contraband Detectors (ASTM)

Standard Practice for Minimum Acceptable Performance of Explosive Trace Detectors (ASTM)

Created March 2, 2009, Updated November 9, 2017