Flame Spectrophotometry Detection for chemical and biological threats

AP4C Technology


Proengin is a leader in flame spectroscopy which is the core technology used in all of our detectors. Flame emission spectrophotometry technology is a proven technique used in many industries requiring reliable sample analysis. Flame emissions spectrophotometry can be referred to using different names such as atomic emissions spectroscopy, atomic spectroscopy, or flame spectrophotometry. Regardless of the name, the process uses an energy source (in this case a small flame) and when materials come in contact with this energy source they become excited and produce radiation (light). Just like with mass spectroscopy, which is viewed as the gold standard for chemical analysis, each atom or molecule has a unique mass to charge ratio of ions allowing molecules to be identified by their unique absorption and transmission over the mass spectrum. In other words, each material has a unique response to the flame, similar to a fingerprint, which allows the detector to accurately identify and differentiate between different materials. Unlike mass spectroscopy, flame spectroscopy can be accomplished in real time, allowing for almost instantaneous identification of key elements and compounds. The added benefit of this technology is that not only can it identify materials, it can also quantify the concentration levels. The amount of energy produced is directly correlated to the amount of materials or concentration of the materials in the air stream. Our technology is also capable of detecting at sub-threshold concentrations as low as parts per billion, which is essential when dealing with highly toxic agents such as organophosphate based nerve agents and 4th generation agents.

Flame spectroscopy is a common laboratory instrument found in many universities, analytical laboratories, and testing facilities. We didn’t invent this technology but we did find a way to miniaturize the technology into a handheld device and harden the device so that it can be used in military and first responder applications.The spectrometers developed by Proengin are:

What is Flame Spectrophotometry Detection?

Scientists have been using flame spectrophotometry for centuries to analyze matter. Flame spectrophotometry detection relies on the science that certain elements or compounds emits a distinct energy profile (wavelengths) when they are placed into an excited atomic state. Each element emits a distinct and unique response, similar to a fingerprint, which allows the materials to be accurately identified. An added benefit of this approach is not only the response unique to the material, but the amount of material present can also be quantified by measuring the amount of energy produced. As such the quantity or concentration of the materials can also be measured and communicated to the operator. This allows the detector to provide real time information on the materials and the concentration of materials present which is important for first responders to understand so they can make decisions as to the threat level, mitigation steps, safety perimeters and even validate proper decontamination.

A universal technology for both chemical and biological detection

Atomic elements or chemical liaisons have a specific light spectrum. Phosphorus, Sulphur, Arsenic, Hydrogen/Nitrogen bonds, Potassium, Sodium, Calcium and many other elements can then be accurately detected from any gas, aerosol, dust or particle thanks to the flame spectrophotometry technology.

Atomic elements such as Phosphorus, Sulfur, Arsenic are key components used in various types of chemical Warfare Agents or Toxic Industrial Materials. In many cases, if these key elements are taken away the resulting compound would not be stable or would not be as harmful. Since these materials are key materials, they have been chosen for our detector system. For example, the most well-known nerve agents such as Sarin, Soman, Tabun, Novichok, or Vx are all organophosphate materials, which means they all contain Phosphorus as a key component needed for them to be effective as a nerve agent. For this reason, even if new types of organophosphate nerve agents are developed, our detector will still be able to detect them. That is one big advantage of our system is that we aren’t dependent upon libraries which much continually be updated to the latest threat in order to make sure they can be detected. Our detector works independent of a library. An added benefit of our technology is that we are able to detect materials at very low concentrations, so we set our detector to trigger at the levels needed for the threat. As such each channel has a different trigger level and dynamic range. The detector also has the ability to detect gasses, aerosols, liquids or solid/powders

No Negative False Alarms

Unlike other technologies, Flame Spectrophotometry technology has an extremely low rate of false positives (false detection). The physical principle on which this technology is based, results in each element having a distinct and unique signature which characterizes that material. Another way of looking at it is that each material has a unique fingerprint associated with it. As such, it is highly unlikely that the detector will properly identify a material it shouldn’t. As long as the detector is operating properly, false positives should not occur.

Application of Flame Spectrophotometry for Biological detection

Beside chemical detection, Flame Spectrophotometry can also be used for biological detection. Biological detection is fundamentally different than chemical detection from the standpoint that biological materials are present in most air streams, so biological detection is conducted differently as a result. Chemical threats, on the other hand, are normally not present naturally in the air so their presence indicates something unusual is occurring. Biological materials can also come in many different forms such as bacteria, virus or toxins. A biological detector must be able to differentiate biological materials from different non biologically, naturally occurring particles in the atmosphere, such as pollen, dust, sand, sea spray, or diesel particulates to name a few. This can be a challenge for certain types of biological detectors due to the fact that some of these non-biological materials fluoresce.

The biological detection process works similarly to the chemical detection process with a few differences. Just like with our chemical detectors, air is continuously drawn into the detector. The detector is focused on particles sizes where biological materials are most likely to occur and are the largest threat to the human body. An impactor system is used to isolate particles between 0.5µm and 10µm. This selected air stream is then concentrated and introduced into the burner. The burner exposes all of the materials in the airstream to an energy source which is capable of exciting the materials in the airstream and the radiation that is produced is captured and analyzed by the system. Each particle in the airstream is analyzed individually and classified by an advanced signal processing algorithm as either being a biological or non-biological particle through the presence of RNA. As such we are able to delineate between biological and non-biological materials. The detector system also is continually looking for any changes relative to the baseline state of biological activity and triggers an alarm if excessive biological activity is detected.

The Flame Spectrophotometry process used for biological detection is the same as what is used for our chemical detectors. As such our detectors are capable of performing both chemical and biological detection at the same time in the same detector system. This separates our technology from many other solutions presently on the market which require separate and different detection methods for chemical and biological detection. Some of our technical know-how centers around the science of how collect and analyze multiple materials simultaneously, which makes our solutions unique in the marketplace. Additional advantages of our technology include:

Proengin: Excellence in CBRN Systems

For almost 40 Years Proengin has been mastering Flame Spectrophotometry technology into innovative products and solutions. Proengin is committed to ongoing research and development investment and is constantly seeking ways to enhance our products, creating innovative advancements in detection, and introducing new products into the market in order to address customer requirements and needs. Our detectors are designed to quickly detect new threats including 4th Generation Agents such as Novichok and Pharmaceutical Based Agents (PBA) and even dangerous or suspicious biological particles.

The AP4C product family encompass a comprehensive range of chemical detectors able to operate in challenging environmental conditions such as humidity, temperature, dust, rain, or altitude that can negatively impact other technologies. Our sample rates and response times are some of the fastest in the market. This makes our detectors ideal solutions for dynamic applications such as vehicles or boats. Sample time also helps handheld users to more quickly identify threats and their locations, saving time and potentially lives. Our detectors work with both aerosol or vapor threats. Combined with the use of the S4PE sample tool, liquids and powders can also be detected. We also have made improvements to our detection trigger levels in order to respond to 4th generation agents and have trigger levels as low as 2 ppb.

Proengin makes products and solutions for chemical, biological, or combined chemical and biological detection. We can also add in radiation and nuclear capabilities to our products to provide full range CBRN detection and monitoring. We have different product offerings geared for specific applications and uses. This includes handhelds, detectors designed for use on vehicles/boats, detectors for critical infrastructure application, detectors designed for quick on/off performance or detectors designed for continuous 24/7 operation. Our detectors can be stand alone, networked together, remotely monitored, hardwired, or combined to existing monitoring or command and control systems. Our goal is to provide a solution which is able to meet your requirements and needs. At the heart of all of these solutions is our proven, battle tested flame spectroscopy technology.

We remain committed to our customers after purchasing. We have a worldwide support program using a combination of Proengin facilities or trusted partners to answer questions, purchase spare parts or consumables, upgrade existing products, hep with preventative maintenance, or conduct repair services on our products. We also offer training and educational tools to help you understand and utilize our products to their full capabilities.