Nerve agents

The most toxic of all weaponized military agents inhibit acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine and causes hyper-stimulation of receptors of cholinergic nervous system.

Chemical Warfare Agent Identification


Fluorescent Discrimination between Traces of Chemical Warfare Agents and Their Mimics


nerve_4Borja Díaz de Greñu, Daniel Moreno, Tomás Torroba
Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Sciences,University of Burgos, 09001 Burgos, Spain

Alexander Berg, Johan Gunnars,Tobias Nilsson, Rasmus Nyman, Milton Persson, Johannes Pettersson
Department of Physics, Umeå University, SE-90187 Umeå, Sweden

Ida Eklind, and Pär Wästerby
Department for CBRN Defense and Security, Swedish Defense Research Agency (FOI), SE-90182 Umeå, Sweden

J. Am. Chem. Soc.2014136, 4125–4128


nerve_5An array of fluorogenic probes is able to discriminate between nerve agents, sarin, soman, tabun, VX and their mimics, in water or organic solvent, by qualitative fluorescence patterns and quantitative multivariate analysis, thus making the system suitable for the in-the-field detection of traces of chemical warfare agents as well as to differentiate between the real nerve agents and other related compounds.

The samples contained Soman in MeCN mixed with each of the seven probes in DMSO

J. Am. Chem. Soc.2014136, 4125–4128


Seven different fluorescent probes were mixed with a series of nerve agents, Soman, Sarin, Tabun and VX, and chemically similar substances DCP and CNP



Observable colours in 366 nm excitation light.

CWASarin (GB), Soman (GD), Tabun (GA), VX (VX).

CWA-simulants: Diethylcyanophosphonate (CNP), Diethylchlorophosphate (DCP). CWA/simulants solvent:

Water (W), Acetonitrile (A). Probes: BD00, BD03, BD13, BD68, BD69, BD77, BD78.

Probe solvents: Dimethylsulfoxide (D), Acetonitrile (A).


Plots of the spectrofluorometer data for CWA Soman (GD) solved in MeCN with the probes BD03 to BD78 in DMSO. In the plots we see how probe BD13 (top middle) causes fluctuations over the whole spectra while the probes BD03 and BD77 (top left and bottom middle) have very clear spectra. One of the few tops of probe BD78 (bottom right) can be seen and it is also this clear orange colour that makes Soman stand out from the other CWA in the photographs


LEFT: A plot of the first two principal axes when running a multivariate analysis over the agent-probe combinations. In the plot we see a clear separation of the CWA (G and V) and the simulants (C).


RIGHT: A plot of the first two principal axes when running a multivariate analysis over the agent-solvent combinations. In the plot we can see a clear separation of the agents solved in water and those solved in acetonitrile.