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Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP)

A new terrorist explosive, triacetone triperoxide (TATP), has recently appeared as a


weapon in the Middle East. TATP has been used by suicide bombers in Israel, and was
chosen as a detonator in !!" by the thwarted #shoe bomber# $ichard $eid. It can be as
or more power%ul than military analo&s. TATP is one o% the most sensitive explosives
'nown, bein& extremely sensitive to impact, temperature chan&e and %riction. Another
peroxide(type explosive is hexamethylene triperoxide diamine ()MT*), which is less
sensitive than TATP but still dan&erous. )MT* is somewhat more sensitive to impact
than T+PT, but both are very sensitive explosives.
The explosion o% TATP is not a thermochemically hi&hly %avored event. In conventional
hi&h explosives such as T,T, each molecule contains both a %uel component and an
oxidisin& component. -hen the explosive detonates, the %uel part is oxidised and as this
combustion reaction spreads it releases lar&e amounts o% heat. The explosion o% TATP
involves entropy burst, which is the result o% %ormation o% one o.one and three acetone
molecules %rom every molecule o% TATP in the solid state. /ust a %ew hundred &rams o%
the material produce hundreds o% litres o% &as in a %raction o% a second.
The explosion o% TATP is similar to the decomposition o% a.ide, %or example, which
produces nitro&en &as but little heat, is used to %ill airba&s %or cars. TATP is the most
extreme example currently 'nown, but it may be possible to desi&n molecules that behave
as an even more power%ul explosive.
TATP can be easily prepared in a basement lab usin& commercially available startin&
materials obtained %rom, e.&., hardware stores, pharmacies, and stores sellin& cosmetics.
TATP is a %airly easy explosive to ma'e, as %ar as explosives manu%acturin& &oes. All it
ta'es is acetone, hydro&en peroxide (01 medicinal peroxide is not concentrated enou&h),
and a stron& acid li'e hydrochloric or sul%uric acid. I don2t recommended mixin& up a
batch %or Independence *ay celebrations because it2s easy to blow yoursel% up when you
ma'e it.
3n *ec. , !!", American Airlines 4li&ht 50, carryin& a crew o% "6 and a passen&er
complement o% "76, includin& #shoe bomber# $ichard $eid, departed +harles de 8aulle
Airport in Paris, 4rance, bound %or Miami, 4lorida. Approximately one and a hal% hours
into the %li&ht, a %li&ht attendant smelled what she thou&ht was a burnt match. A%ter the
%li&ht attendant determined that it was comin& %rom where $eid was seated, she
con%ronted $eid, at which time he put a match into his mouth. The %li&ht attendant alerted
the captain over the intercom system. $eid went on to li&ht another match in an apparent
attempt to set %ire to his shoe. The %li&ht attendant then noticed a wire protrudin& %rom the
shoe. A stru&&le ensued amon& several o% the %li&ht attendants, passen&ers and $eid.
9ltimately $eid was subdued and restrained %or the remainder o% the %li&ht. The %li&ht
was diverted %or landin& to :oston2s ;o&an International Airport, where $eid was ta'en
into %ederal custody. ;ater analysis by the 4:I laboratory in -ashin&ton determined that
there were two %unctional improvised explosive devices hidden in $eid2s shoes made o%
the explosive material triacetone triperoxide, 'nown as #TATP,# and other components.
$ichard $eid2s shoe had 7 or "! ounces o% triacetone triperoxide and PET,.
:ecause o% the wide ran&e o% ener&etic materials and the many di%%erences in their
physical properties, several detection devices detect only certain types o% explosives and
%ail to detect others. 4or example, many detection devices readily detect conventional
explosives made o% or&anic nitro and nitrate compounds, but %ail to detect explosives
made o% inor&anic nitrates or non(nitro&eneous compounds. In particular, many nitro&en(
based detection devices %ail to detect explosives such as A,43 (ammonium nitrate in
%uel oil), :lac' Powder (#&un powder# %ormed %rom potassium nitrate, sul%ur, and
charcoal), and triacetone triperoxide (TATP). As a result, such explosives are sometimes
re%erred to as #transparent.#