NIST develops trace explosives standard

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced this week that it has developed a trace explosives standard with help from the Department of Homeland Security.

According to a statement issued by the institute, the standard will be helpful to companies that want to test, calibrate and develop best operating procedures for trace-explosives detectors.

As with other instruments, trace-explosives detectors need to have a calibration standard to ensure that they are working properly, according to NIST chemist William MacCrehan

“These detectors need to be reliable and precise enough to detect particles that weigh as little as a few billionths of a gram,” he said. “We created this (standard) to provide manufacturers and operators with high quality, independently generated and validated reference test materials to enable better designs and reduce the number of false positives and negatives.”

Standard Reference Material (SRM) 2905 consists of four different test substances designed to simulate trace residues of C-4 plastic explosives, as well as TNT. MacCrehan added that they are also working on reference materials to help train bomb-sniffing dogs.