Previous research has found that specific sequences of single-stranded DNA can act enzymatically to cleave complementary substrate DNA strands in the presence of heavy metal cations. These reactions are rapid, sensitive arid specific toward a single metal analyte leading to potential use of the catalytic DNA in sensor platforms. This research describes the quest to uncover DNA sequences that can act as catalysts in the presence of energetic and explosive compounds. Progress will be described from experiments on cis reactions with self-cleaving DNA to trans reactions with a two-strand construct. Incorporation of fluorophores and quenchers in strategic locations on the catalytic or substrate DNA will render an optical response to a cleaving reaction between the DNA and explosive chemical thus allowing interrogation of the presence, type and concentration of an explosive compound. Such sequences can be used as sensor molecules for incorporation onto photonic crystals or into microfluidic lab-on-a-chip devices for monitoring energetic compounds in groundwater or wastewater.