Efforts are underway in the Surface and Microanalysis Science Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology to study trace aerodynamic sampling of contraband materials (explosives or narcotics) in non-contact trace detection systems. Trace detection systems are designed to screen people, personal items, and cargo for particles that have contaminated surfaces. In a typical implementation of people screening, a human subject walks into a confined space where they are interrogated by a series of pulsed air jets and are screened for contraband materials by a chemical analyzer. The screening process requires particle and vapor removal, transport, collection, desorption, and detection. Aerodynamic sampling is the critical front-end process for effective detection. In this paper, a number of visualization techniques are employed to study non-contact aerodynamic sampling in detail. Particle lift-off and removal is visualized using high-speed videography, transport of air and particles by laser light scattering, and desorption surface heating and cooling patterns by infrared thermography. These tools are used to identify sampling inefficiencies and may be used to study next-generation screening approaches for aerodynamic sampling of particles and vapors.

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