Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Science briefing: chemical mix could create deadly flight blast

By Aussiegirl

Interesting info on what kinds of chemicals could be used and the difficulty involved in creating an explosion on an airliner. Amazing how the jihadists only use science in order to figure out how to kill people, unlike Westerners and who use science to help people. That alone tells you everything you need to know about these two divergent world views.

Science briefing: chemical mix could create deadly flight blast - Britain - Times Online

While there are several liquid explosives that could be used to bring down an aircraft, chemists believe it is more likely that terrorists planned to mix liquid materials that are not themselves explosive but can be combined into a bomb.

The liquid explosives that are sufficiently destructive in their own right to blow up a plane are generally too unstable or too easily detected to be readily smuggled aboard.

Many give off a pungent smell, while substances such as nitroglycerin are difficult to transport as they are liable to go off prematurely. Explosives based on nitrogen, including nitroglycerin, can also be detected with a technique called neutron activation analysis, which is used at many airports.

A more subtle approach would be to combine two or more liquids that are stable by themselves, but which form a powerful explosive when mixed together.

A prime candidate for this would be triacetone triperoxide (TATP), the explosive used by the July 7 bombers. Its two raw ingredients are both liquids, which could potentially be carried on board in sufficient quantities in containers such as bottles of shampoo or contact lens solution.

These could then be mixed in a toilet to make TATP, which is a crystalline white powder. The problem here is that the solid has to be dried before it becomes a reliable explosive. It can also be difficult to detonate, as attested by the failure of the attempted suicide attacks on London on July 21 last year.

The need to get detonators through airport security would also increase the chances of detection.

The problems of assembling and then detonating an improvised bomb of this sort in an airline toilet could explain why the terrorists targeted so many aircraft. It is likely that many of the devices would have failed, so attacking 10 flights would have greatly increased the chances of blowing up one or two.

Andrea Sella, senior lecturer in chemistry at University College London, said: “It would be difficult, but I could certainly conceive of these people taking individual compounds, and mixing them together in the loos. These people are so motivated that they might be nuts enough to set up a chemistry lab in the toilets or something.


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