An apparatus and method for preconcentrating particles and vapors. The preconcentrator apparatus permits detection of highly diluted amounts of particles in a main gas stream, such as a stream of ambient air. A main gas stream having airborne particles entrained therein is passed through a pervious screen. The particles accumulate upon the screen, as the screen acts as a sort of selective particle filter. The flow of the main gas stream is then interrupted by diaphragm shutter valves, whereupon a cross-flow of carrier gas stream is blown parallel past the faces of the screen to dislodge the accumulated particles and carry them to a particle or vapor detector, such as an ion mobility spectrometer. The screen may be heated, such as by passing an electrical current there through, to promote desorption of particles therefrom during the flow of the carrier gas. Various types of screens are disclosed. The apparatus and method of the invention may find particular utility in the fields of narcotics, explosives detection and chemical agents.
This invention was made with United States Government support under Contract No. DE-AC04-94AL85000 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The Government has certain rights to this invention.