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 29, 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 29, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short

Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short

AP (July 29, 2014) The U.S. nuclear industry started building its first new plants using prefabricated Lego-like blocks meant to save time and prevent the cost overruns that crippled the sector decades ago. So far, it's not working. (July 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

AP (July 28, 2014) A bipartisan deal to improve veterans health care would authorize at least $15 billion in emergency spending to fix a veterans program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

AP (July 28, 2014) AP Investigation: As the Obama administration weans the country off dirty fuels, energy companies are ramping-up overseas coal exports at a heavy price. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. 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