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Guilty As Charged

I have actually used these explosives…as a child. We called them “Poppers” and they were little gray pebbles that “exploded” when you threw them on the sidewalk. That should give you some idea of how unstable TATP is.

The pertinacious penguin, Badtux, is annoyed with the idiotic screening process at airports: Beware the Shampoo of Mass Destruction!

From Wikipedia, Acetone peroxide:

Acetone peroxide (triacetone triperoxide, peroxyacetone, TATP, TCAP) is an organic peroxide and a primary high explosive. It takes the form of a white crystalline powder with a distinctive acrid smell.

It is highly susceptible to heat, friction, and shock. For its instability, it has been called the “Mother of Satan”.

Also known as “peroxyacetone”, acetone peroxide most commonly refers to the cyclic trimer TCAP (tri-cyclic acetone peroxide, or tri-cyclo), also called triacetone triperoxide (TATP), obtained by a reaction between hydrogen peroxide and acetone (using a catalyst).

All forms of acetone peroxide are very sensitive to initiation. Organic peroxides are sensitive, dangerous explosives. The military does not use them because there are many much better alternatives. Even for people who synthesize homemade explosives, there are many far safer alternatives. Even nitroglycerin is not nearly as sensitive as acetone peroxide.

Now acetone is readily available as nail polish remover or a cleaner, but hydrogen peroxide is not as obvious. The stuff used as hair bleach is stronger that what is used in toothpaste or to clean wounds, but to be useful it has to concentrated to the form used for torpedoes or as rocket fuel, and that process usually eliminates the terrorist problem. A hydrogen peroxide leak in a torpedo is the suspected cause of the sinking of the Russian submarine Kursk.

Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog reports Asheville Regional Airport having people pouring out liquids in a barrel in the terminal. What a wonderful way to find out if someone is carrying the components to a binary bomb, by blowing up the airport if they are. There are also a number of things people might be legitimately carrying that can generate poisonous fumes if mixed. These people don’t spend much time reading warning labels.

Remember Richard Reid, the “Shoe Bomber”? Keeping in mind what happens when a six-year-old throws a “Popper” against a sidewalk, what are the chances he had any significant amount of TATP in his shoe?

Given the number of airlines already in severe trouble, this should take them over the edge. We really need to do something about passenger rail service, because we are going to need it when the airlines go under.

2 comments

1 Michael { 08.12.06 at 7:28 pm }

Poppers are one of the fulminates (probably mercury, back in the day, but now changed to something a little less toxic). I think TATP is even touchier.

2 Bryan { 08.12.06 at 9:55 pm }

They use a couple of crystals of TATP vice the fulminates these days. It’s applied wet and then wrapped, but it still requires a class one Federal explosives permit, as well as am industrial chemical permit to get the “fixings”.

You might be able to still get them in the MidWest, they are banned down here after some fools swallowed a few on a dare.

The acetone is making it harder to make them as it is used to make illegal drugs, and you can either buy small quantities or tanker full, but rarely anything in between as would be used by the small American fireworks manufacturers. I visited a small manufacturer in New York before the family quit because of regulations and residential encroachment. They manufactured big displays, not the consumer stuff.

There’s no way to be sure what the Chinese or Mexicans are using, other than chemical analysis.