2014 R&D 100 Winner
Filling major gaps in field testing for explosives and narcotics, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s microTLC is a miniaturized, field-portable thin layer chromatography (TLC) kit used to detect and identify unknowns. Originally developed to identify military explosives, the device has been modified to also identify and determine the purity of illicit drugs, pesticides and other compounds. The detection platform measures 1.5 by 2 in and requires about 3 min for identification. Chemicals and standards are self-contained in an environmentally friendly form that requires only battery power. No calculations or operator interpretation are needed, and easy step-by-step on-screen instructions are provided. The simplicity of the design makes it ideal for both field and laboratory applications involving forensics, first responders and military diagnostics.

The microTLC kit is unique in that it uses aluminum-backed reverse-phase C18 TLC plates to identify unknowns, which is superior to phase silica gel plates normally used in this technology. The sample is extracted with solvent and then efficiently spotted onto the plates, which are then placed in the developing chamber with the developing solvent suspended in Cab-O-Sil. Development takes only 2 or 3 min. After a drying time of only 10 to 15 sec, the plates are then examined under UV light for identification of the suspect materials compared to the pre-spotted standards.

Thin layer chromatography device

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Field Forensics

Development Team

The microTLC Development Team
Craig S. Johnson, Principal Developer, Field Forensics Inc.
John G. Reynolds, Principal Developer, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
M. Leslie Carman, Lawrence Livermore National Labroatory
Philip F. Pagoria, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Sacorro M. Painter, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Ana Racoveanu, Lawrence Livermore National Labroatory
Joe H. Satcher, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Richard W. Whipple, formerly with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory