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Morphix Technologies Explosive and Chemical Detection Kits

Morphix Technologies® is a leader in creating and manufacturing easy-to-use, cost effective, reliable products that detect invisible dangers. It has taken simple colorimetric (color change) technology and ruggedized it for field use. The ISO 9001:2008 certified company has sold over 10 million sensors for use by military, emergency response and industrial personnel. 

Morphix Technologies offers a line of chemical detection products. Two are of special interest to law enforcement: the Chameleon® Chemical Detection Kits and the TraceX® Explosive Detection Kit.


Chameleon Detection Armband

The Chameleon Detection Armband was developed for the US military under funding from the U.S. Marine Corps Small Business Research Innovation Research (SBIR) Program in order to provide personnel with rugged, easy-to-use chemical detection. In the past, chemical detection devices were too cumbersome and expensive for regular field use. The Chameleon was (and is) a game changer.

Since the initial launch of the Chameleon in 2005, Morphix Technologies has expanded the list of detectable chemicals, as well as pre-configured detection kits for specific circumstances. Morphix Technologies currently offers Hazmat, Clan-Meth-Lab, Chemical Suicide, and Arson Investigation Detection Kits. The Hazmat Detection Kit can be used in a multitude of situations that may be encountered by first responders, including suspected clan-meth labs and chemical suicides.

The Chameleon is designed to attach to the forearm for hands-free detection of gasses and vapors in the air, with no need for a liquid sample. It consists of an armband that holds up to 10 chemical detection cassettes. The armband is designed for an easy on/off fit, including over turn-out gear.

All of the Chameleon Detection Kits include two armbands (14” or 18”), one hard carrying case and 10 pouches containing a set of pre-configured chemical detection cassettes. Full instructions, including photographs.

Each pouch contains one cassette of important functions. HazMat: Acid (low pH), Base (high pH), Chlorine/Fluorine, Hydrogen Sulfide, Phosgene, Hydrogen Fluoride, Hydrazine, Iodine, Phosphine and Sulfur Dioxide. Arson: Acid (low pH), Ammonia, Hydrogen Cyanide, Hydrogen Fluoride, Hydrogen Sulfide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulfate Dioxide and Phosgene. Clan-Meth Lab: Acid (low pH), Ammonia, Hydrogen Sulfide, and Phosphine. Chemical Suicide: Acid (low pH), Base (high pH), Hydrogen Sulfide, Phosphine and Sulfur Dioxide. 

Each cassette comes in a sealed, tear-open foil pouch that bears the name of the Hazmat chemical, along with a lot number and an expiration date. Shelf life is 24 months at room temperature. The cassettes should be stored in a cool place (77 deg F is optimum) although short-term storage of 35 deg F to 140 deg F is acceptable.          

Once the foil pouch is opened, the cassettes have a service life of 24 hours. They have an operating temperature range of -22 deg F to 122 deg F. Operating humidity range is 20 percent to 100 percent RH. They are capable of immersion in fresh or salt water for one hour.

The cassettes are warranted for a period of two years or shelf life, whichever is less. Refill kits are available, as are individual cassettes. A Diborane cassette is also available. 

New cassettes are coming soon according to the company.

Chemical detection with the Chameleon is literally foolproof. You simply load cassettes prior to use and put on the armband. If the chemical is present, one half of the viewing window on the cassette will change color. There is no calibration. There are no batteries to fail. The armband positioning allows the user to continuously monitor the surrounding air for hazardous chemicals at a glance while engaged in other tasks. 

Morphix Technologies also makes a Chameleon training kit that is designed for classroom demonstrations. The training kit includes ampoules of ammonia inhalant (“smelling salts”) and training cassettes. The “smelling salts” make the training cassette change color to provide an actual example of the Chameleon in use.

The Chameleon has been approved by the U.S. Safety Act of the Department of Homeland Security as an anti-terrorism technology that will be used to save lives. The Safety Act provides important legal liability protections for providers of Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technologies.


TraceX Explosives Kit

The TraceX Explosives Kit was developed under contract from the U.S. Department of Defense to meet military needs for an affordable, easy-to-use product that detects all major explosive material threats without exposing the user or kit to contamination or dangerous chemicals. 

Introduced in 2013, the TraceX Explosive Kit is designed to identify bombers and their bomb making facilities. It can detect all major homemade explosives and their precursors with a single swab.

The Improvised Explosive Device (IED) is the weapon of choice of terrorists around the globe. Domestic law enforcement must deal with the reality that terrorists will seek to employ this tactic on American soil.

Law enforcement is faced with a dual role of uncovering bombers and bomb making networks before an incident and investigating the aftermath of any incident. Terrorist events, such as the bombings of the London subway or the Boston marathon, underscore this need.

The Pentagon has warned that the U.S. faces an increasing IED threat at home. In public testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee, Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), stated, “The domestic IED threat from both homegrown extremists and global threat networks is real and presents a significant security challenge for the United States.”

Electronic explosive detection devices (“sniffers’) have traditionally been used to detect common explosive materials and their precursors. These devices are expensive and require regular maintenance. Additionally, they require considerable specialized training to use.

Specially trained dogs are also used to detect explosives by using their noses, which are very sensitive to scents. Dogs can be very effective; however, their capabilities become degraded as they tire or become bored.

Although colorimetric explosive detection kits have been available for some time, they are often difficult to use and interpret. They also often require the user to mix chemicals and perform multiple tests. These kits can also expose the user to toxic chemicals and can expose the kit to contamination from the environment, which leads to unreliable results.

The TraceX Explosives Kit comes in a tear-open, hermetically sealed plastic pouch with complete operating instructions. The pouch bears a lot number and expiration date. The kit itself is housed in its own disposable, protective hard plastic case. 

The entire kit measures only 5.3 inches x 3.8 inches x 0.8-inch and is small enough to fit in a cargo pocket. It is sensitive enough to detect trace levels of explosives and precursors (can also detect bulk levels).

The TraceX Explosive Kit detects all of the major families of explosive materials and the precursors: Nitroaromatics (TNT, DNT, Tetryl), Nitramines & Nitrate Esters (RDX, HMX, PETN, EGDN, NG), Inorganic Nitrates (urea nitrate, ammonium nitrate, black powder), Chlorates & Bromates (potassium chlorate, potassium bromate), Peroxides (TATP, HMTD), Acids (nitric acid, sulfuric acid, citric acid) and Bases (potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide).

The TraceX Explosives Kit is extremely simple to use. A single swab and crush is all that is necessary. All chemicals are contained inside the plastic case. There is a low potential for sample contamination. The sampling site is protected by cover and the user swabs with handle. The testing and results are all conducted within the case.

Results are clearly indicated. A single color indicates the presence of a particular family of explosive material. While standard pens and wipes can detect between 1–3 and 1–4 explosive families in one test cycle in two to 12 minutes respectively, the TraceX Explosives Kit can detect nine in under three minutes.

The TraceX Explosives Kit has an operating temperature range of 35 deg F to 122 deg F. 

The operating humidity range is 20 percent to 95 percent RH. Shelf Life is 12 months at room temperature. Short-term excursions up to 122 deg F are acceptable. The TraceX is warranted for one year or shelf life, whichever is less. The TraceX explosives detection kit is available in boxes of five kits.

Morphix Technologies also offers a TraceX Explosives Training Kit. 

The training kit includes a TraceX Kit, blue plastic film, sealed foil pouch containing citric acid powder, and operating instructions.


Eugene Nielsen provides investigative and tactical consulting services and is a former officer. He may be reached at

Published in Law and Order, Sep 2015

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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