Technion Scientists: Explosive Favored by Terrorists has More Forms than Previously Thought

Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have discovered never-before-seen polymorphic crystalline structures of triacetone-triperoxide (TATP), the easy-to-make but difficult to detect explosive increasingly used by terrorists worldwide. The findings, which were published online yesterday in ACS Crystal Growth & Design, will make it easier to detect TATP, even when it is concealed.

TATP was previously believed to have just one crystalline form. But using methods that include X-ray crystallography (which reveals the arrangement of atoms within a crystal), Prof. Ehud Keinan of the Technion Faculty of Chemistry and colleagues have found the explosive can form at least six different types of crystals, depending on the conditions during its synthesis and crystallization.

“One way to detect certain kinds of explosives is a method called x-ray powder diffraction,” says Keinan.  “Each of these crystals has its own distinct structure, and identifying six and very possibly more of these polymorphs is a big step toward more reliable TATP detection.”Prof. Ehud Keinan

The Technion team also included Dr. Ofer Reany, Dr. Moshe Kapon and Dr. Mark Botoshansky. The group previously developed a device for identifying traces of TATP and other peroxide-based explosives. The Peroxide Explosive Tester (PET), which resembles a three-color ballpoint pen, is manufactured and sold by Acro Security Ltd.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is Israel's leading science and technology university.  Home to the country's winners of the Nobel Prize in science, it commands a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in nanotechnology, computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine.  The majority of the founders and managers of Israel's high-tech companies are alumni. Based in New York City, the American Technion Society (ATS) is the leading American organization supporting higher education in Israel, with offices around the country.


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