Skoltech is an international graduate research-focused university that was founded by the group of world-renowned scientists in 2011. Skoltech's curriculum focuses on technology and innovation, offering Master's programs in 11 technological disciplines. Students receive rigorous theoretical and practical training, design their own research projects, participate in internships and gain entrepreneurial skills in English. The faculty is comprised of current researchers with international accreditation and achievements.

A new Skoltech patent: labeling ammonium nitrate to track its source

Professor Albert Nasibulin and Dr Anastasia Goldt from the Laboratory of Nanomaterials of the Skoltech Center for Photonics and Quantum Materials have been granted a patent for a method of labeling of industrial-grade ammonium nitrate, NH₄NO₃, a common component for fertilizers and explosives. This labeling method can help track the ammonium nitrate to a specific batch from a known producer and requires no changes to the core chemical production process.

The metal-based chemical ‘label’ added to granules of ammonium nitrate can be easily “read” and detected by electron microscopy instruments not just to pin down the source of the chemical but also to quickly separate agricultural and industrial grades of the ammonium nitrate. The method requires adding as little as 0.01% of markers to the ammonium nitrate. Finally, it can be used to investigate the source of the chemical if it is utilized for making explosives. 

The new method provides secured identification, traceability, and authentication solutions, and depending on the markers’ concentration, it can be used for both hidden and unhidden marking not only for ammonium saltpeter but also for inks, paints, and other materials.

“The great advantage of the approach is an opportunity for the collection and detection of markers after an explosion,” Anastasia Goldt says.

“To implement this approach in industry the initiative should come from manufactures. We propose an elegant and useful method to code the existing chemicals, which could be used for explosives. We are looking for the connection with industry to introduce our method into practice,” he adds.


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