Washington, March 25 (ANI): Scientists have determined that it is highly unlikely that terrorists could produce a new and particularly dangerous form of the explosive responsible for airport security screening of passengers' shoes.
Gerard Harbison, a chemist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and his team, used computer simulations to analyze a variety of potential peroxide-based explosives in the same chemical class as triacetone triperoxide (TATP).
That powerful, easy-to-make explosive was used by the "shoe bomber," Richard Reid, in his failed attempt to blow up a transatlantic airline flight in 2001.
Harbison's team became intrigued by "Internet lore," reports circulating on the Web claiming creation of another explosive - tetracetone tetraperoxide (TeATeP) - which is reputedly a more lethal relative to TATP.
Initially working on detection methods of peroxide explosives for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the group instead began to investigate the structure of TeATeP to evaluate likelihood of its use as a terrorist's weapon.
"Our analysis indicates that potentially new and destructive terrorist materials, which would tax our detection capabilities, may be too unstable for a practical synthesis," said Harbison.
"We consider it unlikely that any of the previous syntheses were actually successful, and the Internet myths about TeATeP are nothing more than that. So, the good news is basically this is something we don't have to worry about," he added.
The group investigated 20 molecular structures of various acetone peroxide compounds and found that all substances larger than TATP are likely too sensitive to be used as weapons.
"The energies we're seeing in the analysis are extreme enough," Harbison said, adding that a review of previous TeATeP synthesis reports raised many questions.
"If you look at the actual literature on people who claim to have made TeATeP, it's very ambiguous. We think probably what happened when people thought they were making TeATeP was that they were actually making TATP," he added.
According to Harbison, this synthesis error is common and often fatal. When trying to make TATP, a less stable relative, diacetone diperoxide, often is created.
"Using computational chemistry, we can narrow down the domain of potential hazards, things that aren't going to be on the horizon," he said.
"I think we now know so much more about not just what works for improvised-explosive-device detection but also what doesn't work, and we don't have to try it out experimentally," he added. (ANI)