Terrorists, Explosives, and Security Issues

Acetone Peroxides are particularly scary compounds because the materials they are assembled from are so easy to get, they can be made at home, and the stuff is exceedingly unstable.

Unstable; I link that term in my mind with mental health. If a person is unstable they can go off at any time. The unpredictable sequelae can do massive damage. No one quite knows what will set off an “explosion”. Acetone Peroxides in the hands of terrorists are in that class of explosives that are unpredictable, unstable and darn hard to detect.

Security issues with explosives have been on the news continually for several years but the first time I heard about acetone peroxide explosives was after the terrorist bombings of the London subway system. Even then it did not sink in until the arrests on August 10, 2006 of several terrorists plotting to use the acetone-peroxide type explosives on transatlantic airplanes.

The security issues raised here are legion.

� First is the overall broad category of identifying and watching the possible terrorists among us.

� Second is the huge variety of materials that can be used by terrorists to do massive harm to innocent people, economies, and nations.

� Third is how easy it is to get recipes on making explosives on the internet or in your local library.

I did not go to the library to check out the recipe for acetone peroxide explosives, I just googled it up on the net. Fast, simple, and scary, I actually have those ingredients at my house (except I am nearly out of peroxide which I use in a highly diluted form to gargle with any time I have a bad sore throat). The acetone is in a bottle on my dresser marked “nail polish remover”. The recipe I found for making the stuff actually recommends the 35% hydrogen peroxide instead of the medicinal 3% but that’s no problem. There is a Bi-Mart store just three blocks from my house that has wood bleaching materials. Oh yes, the acetone…they recommend the 2-Propanone, which is also available at Bi-Mart, or Ace Hardware, or Home Depot, or Wal-Mart as paint thinner but for small batches of boom stuff my big bottle of nail polish remover would probably work fine. None of this information is intended to make you feel comfortable.

I should put a warning in here.

� Do Not Get Silly.

� Do Not Try This At Home.

� You can blow yourself to smithereens just mixing the stuff.

The recipe I read gives pretty detailed instructions on how to prepare, mix, store, or transport the resultant explosive. Since I am more concerned with actual security issues than creating more terrorists I will not repeat anything else from that recipe. I will note that warnings are placed throughout the recipe stating that the material is extremely unstable during preparation and also during storage and transport. It can explode from small differences in temperature, friction, or impacts.

The type of explosion caused by acetone peroxide is called an entropy explosion. The means the explosive effect is caused by disassociation of weak atomic bonds inside the molecules and not from a chemical reaction. All the other common explosives we are familiar with are caused by chemical reaction.

The combination of terrorists and explosives is not new. The security issues associated with terrorists is not new. What is new is the attempted use of this highly unstable, hard to detect, easy to make explosive.

References:

� Britain Thwarts Airline Terror Plot,
UK, U.S. Raise Security Threat Levels
By John Ward Anderson, Fred Barbash and William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writers Thursday, August 10, 2006; 1:22 PM Retrieved 8/10/06

� http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Chemical_synthesis:Acetone_peroxide_synthesis retrieved 8/10/06

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