A cost effective hydrogel test kit for pre and post blast trinitrotoluene

Aree Choodum (Lead / Corresponding author), Khanitta Malathong, Niamh NicDaeid, Wadcharawadee Limsakul, Worawit Wongniramaikul

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A cost effective hydrogel test kit was successfully developed for the detection of pre- and post-blast trinitrotoluene (TNT). A polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) hydrogel matrix was used to entrap the potassium hydroxide (KOH) colourimetric reagent. The easily portable test kit was fabricated in situ in a small tube to which the sample could be added directly. The test kit was used in conjunction with digital image colourimetry (DIC) to demonstrate the rapid quantitative analysis of TNT in a test soil sample. The built-in digital camera of an iPhone was used to capture digital images of the colourimetric products from the test kit. Red-Green-Blue (RGB) colour data from the digital images of TNT standard solutions were used to establish a calibration graph. The validation of the DIC method indicated excellent inter day precision (0.12-3.60%RSD) and accuracy (93-108% relative accuracy). Post-blast soil samples containing TNT were analysed using the test kit and were in good agreement with spectrophotometric analysis. The intensity of the RGB data from the TNT complex deviated by +6.3%, +5.1%, and -4.9% after storage of the test kits in a freezer for 3 months. The test kit was also reusable for up to 12 times with only -5.4%, +0.3%, and +4.0% deviations. The hydrogel test kit was applied in the detection of trace explosive residues at the scene of the recent Bangkok bombing at the Ratchaprasong intersection and produced positive results for TNT demonstrating its operational field application as a rapid and cost effective quantitative tool for explosive residue analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-208
Number of pages7
JournalForensic Science International
Early online date6 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


  • Hydrogel
  • Digital images
  • Red Green Blue colour system
  • iPhone
  • Trinitrotoluene


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