A compact optical sensor for explosive detection based on NIR luminescent quantum dots

Applied Physics Letters, Volume 119, Issue 4, July 2021. Detection of explosive traces in the vapor phase is of primary importance for safety and security in several environments. Different detection methods with high sensitivity are available in the market, but they are typically expensive and require specialized personnel to be operated. Here, we propose a compact, low-cost sensor for explosive detection based on the photoluminescence (PL) quenching of solid-state PbS quantum dot solids cast from the solution phase on a silicon substrate. We demonstrate the sensor capability to detect nitrobenzene vapor at a concentration as low as 445 ppb in air at room temperature, overcoming the performance of other state-of-the-art quantum dot-based PL sensors for nitroaromatic compounds. Moreover, the proposed system can be realized with off-the-shelf electronics and does not need any additional laboratory equipment to be operated, thus paving the way for its deployment in distributed sensor networks.