Israeli Invention Detects TATP Explosives

Researchers from Israel’s Technion in Haifa have developed a device to detect the kind of improvised explosives increasingly used by Arab terror groups.

, | updated: 19:46

The new detector, named the Peroxide Explosive Tester (PET), looks like a three-color ball-point pen. The device releases three chemical mixtures that change color upon interaction with the suspected explosive materials.

A relatively new difficult-to-detect explosive material called triacetone-triperoxide (TATP), commonly known as acetone peroxide, is one of a group of explosives based on the unstable peroxide group of compounds. It is increasingly being utilized by terror groups, who used it in the Dolphinarium Disco massacre, several bomb attacks in downtown Jerusalem, and the failed attempt to down a passenger plane by Muslim shoe-bomber Richard Reid.

One of the most alarming attributes of TATP is that it cannot be detected by bomb-sniffing dogs, making it easier to smuggle into airports and onto airplanes. It is also very easy to synthesize in clandestine labs, using readily available chemicals.

"To our great surprise,” PET’s inventor, Prof. Ehud Keinan, Dean of the Technion's Faculty of Chemistry, wrote in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, “we discovered that TATP is very different from all other conventional explosives in that it does not release heat during the explosion. It explodes by rapid decomposition of every solid-state molecule to four gas-phase molecules. This rare phenomenon, scientifically known as 'Entropic Explosion', is reminiscent of the rapid reaction that produces gas in the safety air-bags of cars during accidents."

In addition to Prof. Keinan, the research that made PET possible was carried out by Prof. Yehuda Zeiri of the Nuclear Research Center in the Negev, and Professors Ronnie Kosloff and Joseph Almog of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, together with their research teams.

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