Detection of Explosive Materials Using an Encapsulated Fluorescent Bioprobe

Period of Performance: 09/11/2007 - 09/09/2008


Phase 2 STTR

Recipient Firm

Agave Biosystems, Inc.
P.O. Box 100
Ithaca, NY 14850
Principal Investigator
Firm POC

Research Institution

Universities Space Research Association
10211 Wincopin Circle
Suite 500
Columbia, MD 21044
Institution POC


The use of explosives over the last 100 years has left up to 16,000 military ranges contaminated with highly toxic compounds. A major challenge to the remediation of these ranges is identifying the location of persistent explosives residues. To meet this challenge, Agave BioSystems in collaboration with Universities Space Research Agency (USRA) is developing an encapsulated fluorescent bioprobe for in situ detection of explosive materials. The bioprobe developed uses a displacement immunoassay and fluorescence quenching to detect the presence of specific explosives residues. In the Phase I, a bioprobe was developed specifically for TNT (2,4,6-trinitrotoluene). This fluorescent bioprobe is encapsulated within novel nanoporous silica microspheres. Encapsulation within nanometer-sized pores in the microspheres provides a protective structure to stabilize the bioprobes and minimize environmental influences. Protecting the bioprobes from micron-sized clays and other materials present in soil will allow development of a robust and sensitive detection system. In the Phase I effort Agave BioSystems successfully demonstrated probe development, encapsulation, and detection of TNT. The Phase II effort will focus on scale up of materials, developing assays to detect multiple agents, and adapting the assay for stand-off detection of explosives residues under field conditions.