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The primary focus of the Chemistry Laboratories is to develop answers to research questions both for energetic materials and other materials. The synthesis of new energetic materials, their testing and performance products are analyzed to provide safety information.
A variety of research projects supported by private and public corporations, the National Science Foundation, DoE, and DoD are ongoing in the laboratories each year. These projects make use of the laboratories' state-of-the-art equipment, including Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC), Fourier Transform Attenuated Total Reflectance Infrared spectroscopy (FTIR-ATR), an Agilent Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer (GC-MS) with an autosampler and other equipment designed to provide information with a high level of accuracy and precision.
Equipment utilized in the Chemistry Laboratories includes the following:
- Agilent Gas Chromatograph-Mass Spectrometer with autosampler (GC-MS):
The GC-MS separates and detects gas samples containing small amounts of explosives, other energetic materials and propellants, organic molecules and inorganic molecules.
- Finnigan Liquid Chromatograph-Mass spectrometer (LC-MS):
The LC-MS separates and detects the content of liquid samples such as solutions of TNT, RDX, enzymes, and other molecules.
- ThermoElectron Ultraviolet-Visible spectrometer (UV-vis):
The UV-vis uses ultraviolet and visible light to identify molecules (both organic and inorganic) present in sample solutions. This technique is particularly suitable for metal-organic solutions and the UV-vis is able to identify both the molecules present and the concentration of those molecules.
- Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC):
The DSC heats very small samples according to a planned program (degrees/minute) and charts the sample's response to the applied heat. DSC is used for energetic materials, propellants, plastics and other polymers, organic materials, inorganic materials and even cherry pie filling.
- Ion Chromatograph (IC):
The IC gives information on the ions contained in a sample. Both positive ions (cations) and negative ions (anions) are detected. Applications for this technique include the identification of energetic materials from the residues they leave behind, separation and identification of metal ions from solutions of mixed ions, and identification of ion concentrations.
- Fourier Transform Attenuated Total Reflectance Infrared spectroscopy (FTIR-ATR):
The FTIR-ATR applies infrared light energy over specified wavelengths to the sample to help in the identification of molecular structure with organic fragments of molecules. Different fragments are found in specific areas along the energy continuum. FTIR-ATR can be used for solid, liquid, and gas samples. Most compounds containing carbon and hydrogen can be identified as well as energetic materials and common household products.
- Particle Size Analyzer (PSA):
The PSA measures the particles in a sample and displays the range of sizes present from 4 microns to 2000 microns. Particle size is often important in the control of industrial mixing, product preparation, and quality control and quality assurance for production facilities.
- Laser Cutting Work Station (LCWS):
The LCWS is a cutting facility with a femtosecond pulse. Because the pulses are so fast there is no heat created and therefore highly energetic materials can be cut and shaped without detonation occurring.
- The EMRTC Chemistry Laboratories contain other small equipment necessary for sample preparation, chemical synthesis of inorganic and organic materials, and small scale testing of samples (Torres Laboratories).
Other equipment available:
- 100 kV JEOL and Phillips 430 300 kV transmission electron microscope (TEM)
- JEOL 6100 with EDS and Cambridge scanning electron microscope (SEM)
- Flame Atomic Absorption spectroscopy
- X-ray Fluorescence
- X-ray Diffraction
- Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer
- Research Greenhouse (a professional greenhouse dedicated to research on phytoremediation and phytomining)
The EMRTC Chemistry Laboratories work closely with the other divisions of EMRTC and its affiliates such as METTOP, IERA and the Playas Training and Resource Center. The Chemistry Laboratories also work closely with The Center for Energetic Materials and Energetic Devices (CEMED) an organization that solves practical problems utilizing the skills and facilities of New Mexico Tech/EMRTC, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories.
The primary focus of the Chemistry Laboratory is the thermal decomposition mechanisms of explosives and propellants. The reaction products and kinetics of decomposition are analyzed to provide necessary safety information on these materials.