Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Form Of Destructive Terrorist Material Unlikely, Chemists Report

Date:
March 30, 2009
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
Concerns that terrorists could produce a new and particularly dangerous form of the explosive responsible for airport security screening of passengers' shoes and restrictions on liquids in carryon baggage are unfounded, a group of scientists is reporting. Their study demonstrates that a new form of destructive terrorist material is unlikely.

Detonation of 0.5 grams of triacetone triperoxide (TATP) -- a trivial sample size compared to quantities in modern-day terrorist materials -- emits a shock wave that destroys a nearby water balloon. At the 237th ACS National Meeting, chemists are reporting that a new, more powerful explosive related to TATP is unlikely.
Credit: Gerard Harbison, Ph.D.

Concerns that terrorists could produce a new and particularly dangerous form of the explosive responsible for airport security screening of passengers' shoes and restrictions on liquids in carryon baggage are unfounded, scientists reported March 24.

Speaking at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Salt Lake City, Utah, Gerard Harbison, Ph.D., and colleagues described using computer simulations to analyze a variety of potential peroxide-based explosives in the same chemical class as triacetone triperoxide (TATP). That powerful, easy-to-make explosive was used by the "shoe bomber," Richard Reid, in his failed attempt to blow up a transatlantic airline flight in 2001. TATP has also been used by suicide bombers in the Palestinian Intifada.

Harbison's team became intrigued by "Internet lore," reports circulating on the Web claiming creation of another explosive — tetracetone tetraperoxide (TeATeP) — which is reputedly a more lethal relative to TATP. Initially working on detection methods of peroxide explosives for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the group instead began to investigate the structure of TeATeP to evaluate likelihood of its use as a terrorist's weapon.

"Our analysis indicates that potentially new and destructive terrorist materials, which would tax our detection capabilities, may be too unstable for a practical synthesis," said Harbison, a chemist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "We consider it unlikely that any of the previous syntheses were actually successful, and the Internet myths about TeATeP are nothing more than that. So the good news is basically this is something we don't have to worry about."

The group investigated 20 molecular structures of various acetone peroxide compounds and found that all substances larger than TATP are likely too sensitive to be used as weapons. "The energies we're seeing in the analysis are extreme enough," Harbison said, adding that a review of previous TeATeP synthesis reports raised many questions. "If you look at the actual literature on people who claim to have made TeATeP, it's very ambiguous. We think probably what happened when people thought they were making TeATeP was that they were actually making TATP."

This synthesis error is common and often fatal, Harbison said. When trying to make TATP, a less stable relative, diacetone diperoxide, often is created. "The nice thing about doing this on the computer is first it's safe, and our results are so close to what's been experimentally measured that we have a great deal of confidence with what we're doing," Harbison said. "We're really at the stage where we can evaluate threats — potential molecules that might be dangerous — and we can really make some sort of judgment about whether those molecules are going to present a hazard in the future. We can test things with computers at a level of reliability that's comparable to personally doing the synthesis and evaluating material yourself."

There's a lot of research that deals with known threats, Harbison said. But his groups' research focuses on the idea that emerging threats will always exist. "Presumably you'd like to anticipate the threats before they come along. We're now pushing it a little further and discussing potential threats.

"Using computational chemistry, we can narrow down the domain of potential hazards, things that aren't going to be on the horizon. I think we now know so much more about not just what works for improvised-explosive-device detection but also what doesn't work, and we don't have to try it out (experimentally). We did five years ago."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "New Form Of Destructive Terrorist Material Unlikely, Chemists Report." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090324200927.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2009, March 30). New Form Of Destructive Terrorist Material Unlikely, Chemists Report. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090324200927.htm
American Chemical Society. "New Form Of Destructive Terrorist Material Unlikely, Chemists Report." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090324200927.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites

Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites

AP (July 25, 2014) Emory University's Center for Digital Scholarship has launched a self-guided mobile tour app to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War's Battle of Atlanta. (July 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Too Few Teens Receiving HPV Vaccination, CDC Says

Too Few Teens Receiving HPV Vaccination, CDC Says

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is blaming doctors for the low number of children being vaccinated for HPV. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins