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Innovation in Trace Technology

Implant Sciences Corporation (IMSC) is an innovator in Explosive Trace Detection (ETD), continually developing new technologies in the key challenge areas of ETD, Harvest, Transport, Analysis, and Reporting:

The Company’s IP portfolio contains 19 security-related patents; 17 awarded, and 2 pending. The portfolio provides extensive protection in IMSC’s original specialties, sample harvesting and collection. Recent patents and acquisitions have emphasized sample detection.


The first step in detection is harvesting explosive traces from the surface of the object to be analyzed. Trace residue consists of condensed vapor and/or microscopic particles of explosives, narcotics, or other target compounds. These are often extremely “sticky” and tenaciously adhere to surfaces. Harvesting is the process of releasing and collecting this trace residue from surfaces that are being sampled.

The traditional method of harvesting is wiping the target surface with a trap. However, the cost of the disposable paper “traps” is a major contributor to the high cost of operation associated with the current generation of trace detection equipment.

To comply with existing sampling protocols, IMSC Explosive Trace Detection equipment supports sample harvesting through wiping. However, the company has developed non-contact harvesting using its pateneted heated vortex that increases evaporation rates from the surface being sampled.


Once a trace particle or condensed vapor has been released from a surface, it has to be transported to an analyzer. The vortex is, in effect, a miniature tornado. An outer spinning cylinder of air surrounds a low pressure air flow back toward the sample inlet or trap. This allows ETD equipment to project a vacuum from a few centimeters (in the QS-H150), to several feet with the large 16” diameter attractor.

The vortex transports vapor directly into the explosive trace detector. This allows objects to be tested without contact or the use of disposable traps, increasing safety and lowering total cost of ownership.


The detection technology most commonly used in handheld explosive trace detectors is Ion Mobility Spectrometry, an analytical technique used to separate and identify ionized molecules in the gas phase based on their ion mobility. Samples are desorbed, ionized, and transferred into a “drift tube” where the ions are separated, collected, and analyzed by software.

Implant Sciences performs photonic non-radioactive ionization directly into the sample stream. Most competing products use a radioactive source, often Ni-63, for generating ions. While effective, the use of radioactive materials can result in additional costs for licensing, administration, testing, and disposal. Many worldwide markets may reject instruments with radioactive sources, and if given a choice, all markets would prefer not to have them. The Company has one issued patent and one patent pending for this technology.


The QS-H150 provides both visible and configurable audible alarms when an explosive trace is detected. The substance detected is displayed on the screen, which allows the user to choose the correct response protocol for that kind of explosive. Advanced users may connect an external keyboard and monitor to the detector to obtain more detailed information on results and performance. It is also possible for authorized users to add or modify substance detection parameters.

The system maintains a history of alarms, and is capable of storing over 20,000 events. Authorized users can review the alarm history from the screen. The history can also be offloaded via USB memory stick or network connection.