OSU researchers develop detection test for hydrogen peroxide-based explosives

Stillwater- Researchers at Oklahoma State University who have developed a method to chemically diffuse TATP and HMTD also have the capability to detect simply and immediately the peroxide based explosives. Typically homemade and extremely volatile, TATP and HMTD reportedly were to be used in the terrorist plot foiled yesterday (Aug. 10) by British authorities.

A compound developed by Allen Apblett and Nick Materer, faculty members in OSU's chemistry department, undergoes a chemical reaction when brought into contact with TATP or HMTD. When applied to a swab and dipped in a liquid, it causes a color change on the swab within seconds if the explosives are present. As importantly, the method can detect hydrogen peroxide in any liquid, were someone to attempt to bring the primary ingredient for TATP and HMTD on to a plane and mix it with other components to make a bomb once on board.

TATP (triacetone triperoxide) and HMTD (hexamethylene triperoxide diamine) can be made from chemicals commonly found in hardware stores. However, the explosives are highly unstable, often detonating during production. According to Materer, a number of accidental deaths of bomb-makers in the Middle East has kept TATP or HMTD from becoming widely popular among terrorists groups. Nevertheless, the bombs used in the murder of 52 people on London 's transit systems July 7, 2005 , were hydrogen peroxide-based. And yesterday TATP and HMTD were detailed in the report the FBI and Department of Homeland Security released to law enforcement agencies warning of their potential use in future attacks.

Apblett and Materer have been working on chemical neutralization of hydrogen peroxide-based explosives for more than four years. Initially funded by the Oklahoma City Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, they developed and demonstrated a method to spray or coat the explosives with a compound that causes the chemical diffusion. An outgrowth of that research, the detection test is a recent development. The professors have begun to explore the patenting of the concept and are in discussions with a manufacturer.

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