A method for selective detection of volatile and non-volatile explosives in a mass spectrometer or ion mobility spectrometer at a parts-per-quadrillion level without preconcentration is disclosed. The method comprises the steps of ionizing a carrier gas with an ionization source to form reactant ions or reactant adduct ions comprising nitrate ions (NO.sub.3.sup.-); selectively reacting the reactant ions or reactant adduct ions with at least one volatile or non-volatile explosive analyte at a carrier gas pressure of at least about 100 Ton in a reaction region disposed between the ionization source and an ion detector, the reaction region having a length which provides a residence time (tr) for reactant ions therein of at least about 0.10 seconds, wherein the selective reaction yields product ions comprising reactant ions or reactant adduct ions that are selectively bound to the at least one explosive analyte when present therein; and detecting product ions with the ion detector to determine presence or absence of the at least one explosive analyte.
STATEMENT REGARDING RIGHTS TO INVENTION MADE UNDER FEDERALLY-SPONSORED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
This invention was made with Government support under Contract DE-AC05-76RL01830 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The Government has certain rights in the invention.