Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) measurements of some common military explosives were performed with a table-top micro-Raman system integrated with a Serstech R785 miniaturized device, comprising a spectrometer and detector for near-infrared (NIR) laser excitation (785 nm). R785 was tested as the main component of a miniaturized SERS detector, designed for in situ and stand-alone sensing of molecules released at low concentrations, as could happen in the case of traces of explosives found in an illegal bomb factory, where solid microparticles of explosives could be released in the air and then collected on the sensor’s surface, if placed near the factory, as a consequence of bomb preparation. SERS spectra were obtained, exciting samples in picogram quantities on specific substrates, starting from standard commercial solutions. The main vibrational features of each substance were clearly identified also in low quantities. The amount of the sampled substance was determined through the analysis of scanning electron microscope images, while the spectral resolution and the detector sensitivity were sufficiently high to clearly distinguish spectra belonging to different samples with an exposure time of 10 s. A principal component analysis procedure was applied to the experimental data to understand which are the main factors affecting spectra variation across different samples. The score plots for the first three principal components show that the examined explosive materials can be clearly classified on the basis of their SERS spectra.
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