Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Are those liquids explosive?

Date:
August 19, 2011
Source:
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology
Summary:
A team of researchers in Spain has developed a method to determine the chemical composition of liquids seized by police and suspected to be explosive. Some of the samples analyzed contained substances hazardous to health, such as methanol and boric acid.

This is a false color EDS image of one of the liquids analyzed. The red color corresponds to the energies of bromine, blue to those of sulfur and green to those of phosphorus.
Credit: K. Castro et al./UPV-EHU.

A team of researchers from the University of the Basque Country (Spain) has developed a method to determine the chemical composition of liquids seized by police and suspected to be explosive. Some of the samples analysed contained substances hazardous to health, such as methanol and boric acid.

Each year police forces seize tonnes of pyrotechnic substances which, in principle, are for indoor firework manufacturing (i.e. flares or those used in artistic or sporting events), but which also may end up in the hands of violent groups and hooligans.

A group of chemists from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU, Spain) has developed a method that offers judges conclusive scientific tests on the nature of these liquids. Until now, many resources have been allocated to detecting high explosives such as TNT, but very few for less powerful ones which can also be dangerous.

"We have found a relatively simple way to detect explosive or flammable compounds in suspicious liquids, by combining four techniques commonly used in laboratories," stated Kepa Castro, UPV/EHU researcher and the study's lead author.

On one hand, the molecular composition of the substances is obtained using two spectroscopy techniques (Raman and infrared) that can be performed with mobile devices in airports, customs or ports offices.

On the other hand, energy-dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) combined with scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images is used to determine which elements are in the sample.

"With the SEM-EDS technique we are able to observe how the sample's elements are distributed and grouped (for example, calcium with sulphur suggests that calcium sulphate is present)" explains Castro, "and by crossing data from four different techniques, we are able to check and confirm the results."

Samples with dangerous compounds

To check the method, the scientists applied it to five seized liquid samples. Four of the samples presented substances used in indoor fireworks. Alcohols, such as isopropyl and methanol, are used to solubilise compounds and the scientists managed to produce coloured flames with them.

The team was surprised to find methanol being used as a main solvent, given that this compound is very toxic for human beings, causing acidosis and blindness, and it is restricted in many countries.

Boric acid was also detected in one of the other sample liquids. This substance has recently been added to the list of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) as part of the European Union's REACH Regulation (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances). These acids can have a negative effect on the human reproduction system.

Strangely, no flammable or explosive substances were found in the fifth sample. "It is probably a flame retardant, which is precisely used in fire prevention," suggested the researcher.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kepa Castro, Silvia Fdez-Ortiz de Vallejuelo, Izaskun Astondoa, Fιlix M. Goρi, Juan Manuel Madariaga. Are these liquids explosive? Forensic analysis of confiscated indoor fireworks. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 2011; 400 (9): 3065 DOI: 10.1007/s00216-011-5013-4

Cite This Page:

FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology. "Are those liquids explosive?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110818101705.htm>.
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology. (2011, August 19). Are those liquids explosive?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110818101705.htm
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology. "Are those liquids explosive?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110818101705.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

German Researchers Crack Samsung's Fingerprint Scanner

German Researchers Crack Samsung's Fingerprint Scanner

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) — German researchers have used a fake fingerprint made from glue to bypass the fingerprint security system on Samsung's new Galaxy S5 smartphone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Porsche CEO Says Supercar Is Not Dead: Cue the Spyder 918

Porsche CEO Says Supercar Is Not Dead: Cue the Spyder 918

TheStreet (Apr. 16, 2014) — The Porsche Spyder 918 proves that, in an automotive world obsessed with fuel efficiency, the supercar is not dead. Porsche North America CEO Detlev von Platen attributes the brand's consistent sales growth -- 21% in 2013 -- with an investment in new technology and expanded performance dynamics. The hybrid Spyder 918 has 887 horsepower and 944 lb-ft of torque, but it can run 18 miles on just an electric charge. The $845,000 vehicle is not a consumer-targeted vehicle but a brand statement. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech

New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) — With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the U.S. auto industry. This year's show featured the latest in high technology, and automotive bling. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google Patents Contact Lens Cameras; Internet Is Wary

Google Patents Contact Lens Cameras; Internet Is Wary

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) — Google has filed for a patent to develop contact lenses capable of taking photos. The company describes possible benefits to blind people. 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