Raman Spectroscopy Applications to High Energy Materials
Detection of explosives has always been a challenging issue all over the world. Different analytical techniques and instrumentation methods have been explored to obtain a 100% fail proof detector. Some technologies have matured and have been deployed in the field already. However, active research is still being pursued to make the ultimate explosive detection device. The present thesis broadly addresses the development of Raman spectroscopy based techniques for the detection of explosives. Although Raman spectroscopy has technologically developed and has become a regular tool for chemical identification, its use in the field of detection of explosives has been limited. Two aspects of detection were addressed in this thesis. The first part consists of the detection of minute quantities or traces of explosives using a Raman based method. In order to approach this problem, surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), an offshoot of Raman spectroscopy was explored. Chapters 2-4 deal with developing efficient SERS substrates. In this endeavour, the first and the most obvious choice as SERS substrates were silver (Ag) nanoparticles (NPs). However, we were exploring methods that could be simple one-pot synthesis methods, cost-effective and without employing strong reducing agents (green). Therefore, Ag NPs were synthesized using biosynthetic route. These nanoparticles were used to study their SERS efficiency. Sub-nano molar concentration of dye as well explosive like trinitrotoluene (TNT) and hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane (CL-20) could be obtained for both the clove reduced as well as pepper Ag nanoparticles. Hence Ag NPs are very efficient SERS substrates. In the second part of the work on SERS, bimetallic nanoparticles with core-shell (Agcore-Aushell) architecture were synthesized, characterized and tested for SERS activity. After successful synthesis and characterization of the bimetallic nanoparticles, these were tested for their SERS activities using a dye molecule and an explosive molecule. SERS spectra could be obtained for the bimetallic nanoparticles. It was observed that the sensitivity of these NPs were almost at par with the mono-metallic Ag NPs. In order to bring SERS from laboratory to field, a more practical approach was to prepare solid SERS substrates or SERS substrates on solid platform. In the next chapter, we ventured into the most abundant material which forms the backbone of the organic world, carbon. Various carbonaceous materials ranging from chemically synthesized graphene, graphene oxide, multi-walled carbon nanotube (MWCNT), graphite and activated charcoal were explored as potential substrates for surface enhanced Raman spectroscopic applications. The analytes chosen for this particular study were some fluorescent molecules such as rhodamine B (RB), rhodamine 6G (R6G), crystal violet (CV), Nile blue A (NBA) and a non-fluorescent molecule acetaminophen, commonly known as paracetamol. Enhanced Raman signals were observed for the fluorescent molecules, especially for the molecules whose absorbance maxima are near the excitation wavelength of the laser (514.5 nm). The most interesting outcome of this work was obtaining enhanced Raman signals of nanomolar concentration of R6G on activated charcoal. However, for the non-fluorescent molecule, paracetamol, Raman spectra could not be observed beyond -5 10M concentration for all the carbon substrates including chemically synthesized graphene and MWCNT. This study was crucial in our quest for an ideal SERS substrate. Our observations let us to conclude that chemically synthesized graphene was not the only candidate for the preparation of SERS substrates. Since carbon materials efficiently adsorb and also provide a separate channel for energy decay (fluorescence quenching), even activated charcoal could be employed as a SERS platform. However, carbon alone could not provide an effective solution for the preparation of SERS substrates. Therefore, combining the plasmonic effect of the metal nanoparticles with the efficient adsorption and fluorescence quenching of carbon materials would be ideal. In the next part of the carbon studies, graphene-Ag composites which were either prepared by in situ reduction process or physically mixed were studied for SERS activity. An ideal SERS substrate should possess the following properties: (i) Support plasmon, thereby provide SERS enhancement (ii) Easy to fabricate or synthesize (large scale/bulk) (iii) Ensure high reproducibility and sensitivity (iv) Low false alarm from matrix chemicals (v) Cost effective (vi) Solid substrate (in the form of chip, pellet, slide etc.) Hence, as a final study, carbon silver based composites were explored. R6G was chosen as an analyte again and SERS experiments were conducted. Raman signals at low concentration could be obtained for the carbon-Ag composites as well. In addition, feasibility experiments were also conducted for an explosive molecule, FOX-7. From these preliminary experiments we observed that carbon-metal NP composites can be efficient, cost-effective SERS substrates that will overcome the current issue. The previous chapters dealt with the trace detection of explosives. The next part of the thesis deals with the development of the Raman spectroscopic methods for non-invasive detection of concealed objects. Chapters 4 and 5 primarily focus on explosives detection. Spatially offset Raman spectroscopy (SORS) instrumentation was developed in the laboratory for non-invasive detection solid and liquid explosives. Several experiments were carried out to detect concealed materials inside high density polyethylene (HDPE) containers, coloured glass bottles, envelopes etc. with this technique, Raman signals of materials could be retrieved even within 4 mm thick outer-layer. SORS imaging experiments were also performed on bilayered compounds, tablets etc. However, while performing the SORS experiments, it was observed that due to the restriction in geometry imposed by the method, the signals from the inner-layers could be obtained only up to a certain depth. This posed a serious limitation of SORS for practical scenarios, where the thickness of the outer layer may be tens of mm. In such situation, SORS may not be an effective method. We then performed Raman experiments using a transmission geometry using a series of samples. The transmission Raman (TR) experiments yielded better SNR for the inner (concealed) material as compared to the outer material. Although transmission Raman experiments yielded better signal but these experiments were again geometry dependent, hence, less flexible and TR experiments did not provide information about the position of the underlying materials. In order to obtain complete information, it was necessary to understand photon migration in a multiple scattering medium. It is known that a photon in a multiple scattering medium may be approximated to undergo a random-walk. Statistically, the photon that undergoes multiple scattering in a medium loses its sense of origin (direction), hence, there is a finite probability to observe the exiting photon in any direction. Rayleigh and NIR based imaging modalities have been conducted using this model. Diffuse optical tomographic (DOT) measurements also deal with measuring the photons that have exited the sample after undergoing multiple scattering in a turbid medium. If it was possible to collect the Rayleigh photons or the diffuse photons in DOT experiments, in principle, Raman photons could also be collected from several directions. It was then proposed that if Rayleigh scattered photons can exit at 4π solid angle from a sample, then it can be assumed that some Rayleigh photons may convert to Raman photons, which in turn, shall have a finite probability to exit the sample from all the sides (4π solid angles). This idea of collecting Raman photons has never been discussed before! Thus, as expected based on the above principles, we were able to record Raman scattered photons at all angles and on all sides. This new technique has been termed as ‘Universal Multiple Angle Raman Spectroscopy (UMARS)’. Monte Carlo simulation studies were also performed to understand the distribution of photons in a multiple scattering medium. Simulation studies also revealed that Raman photons exited from all sides of the medium at varying percentages. Hence, several fiber optic probes were designed for illumination and collection to perform the UMARS experiments for samples concealed at depths beyond 20 mm. UMARS was not only applied successfully for the detection of concealed explosives, but also for biologically relevant samples as well. In fact a pharmaceutical tablet as thick as 7 mm was also tested with UMARS and signals could be successfully obtained. Since the UMARS signals were obtained from all possible angles, imaging experiments were also conducted to obtain sample specific information. Frequency-specific images of bilayer materials could be obtained. In the case where one material was concealed within another, the reconstruction of the frequency-specific intensities in a contour plot revealed the position of the concealed layer. One of the most challenging and exciting studies that was conducted was to use UMARS to obtain shapes of hidden materials. Several shapes such as dumbbell, ellipsoid etc were fabricated (made of glass) and were filled with a test chemical, trans-stilbene (TS). This shape was placed inside an outer material like ammonium nitrate (AN) that was taken in a glass beaker. The diameter of the beaker was varied from 25 mm to 60 mm. A series of UMARS measurement was carried out with 10 collection fiber optic probes. The spatial resolution (vertical) was varied from 200 μm to 1 mm. Series of UMARS images were obtained which were then processed and the intensity of the individual fibers were averaged (CCD row pixels) based on the image of the individual fiber on the CCD. The frequency specific intensity of the materials was utilized to reconstruct 2D or a 3D shape. The shapes of the objects could be clearly discerned using UMARS imaging. This marks a major step for the development of UMARS as a 3D imaging modality. UMARS experiments conducted so far have affirmed our belief that this technology can be used as an effective technique for screening solid and liquid samples at airports, railway stations and other entry points. 3D imaging for biomedical diagnostics will provide molecular information in addition to the location and shape of an object inside a tissue such as calcified masses and bones. In the final part of the thesis, 2D Raman correlation spectroscopic method was applied to understand the dynamics of a system that was subjected to external perturbation. In the field of explosive processing and formulations, large batches are generally prepared. However, it is very difficult to ascertain the molecular or structural changes that occur during the processing of these formulations in situ. Analytical methods to monitor the changes online are limited. Raman spectroscopy can be an effective technique for such measurements. This process however, generates a large number of spectra. In such cases, it becomes cumbersome to handle such large number of data and obtain meaningful information. 2D correlation spectroscopy can be applied under such situations. 2D correlation analysis generates essentially two maps, synchronous and asynchronous. In this study, 2D Raman correlation spectroscopy was applied to ammonium nitrate that was subjected to temperature variations. 2D maps were constructed to obtain information about the structural changes associated with temperature. The synchronous map reveals the overall similarity of the intensity changes. Whereas, the 2D asynchronous maps provide the sequence of changes that occur. Based on the set of well defined rules proposed by Isao Noda, the synchronous and the asynchronous correlation maps were analysed. Hence, generalized 2D correlation spectroscopy can be extended to any kind of perturbation and will prove useful in understanding the structural dynamics. The objective of the thesis was to explore various facets of Raman spectroscopy that would be useful in the field of high energy materials specifically in the detection of explosives. Attempts were made for the development of trace detection of explosives using Raman based technique, SERS. In addition, bulk detection of concealed explosives was performed non-invasively using SORS and UMARS. In the field of high energy materials, these techniques will find immense applications. Raman spectroscopy, as we saw is a very important technique that can be used as a stand-alone method and can also be interfaced with other analytical or imaging modalities. This treatise is an example where the strength of this powerful spectroscopic method has been explored to some extent.
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