Chemical sensor may stop terrorists

Terrorists may ultimately find it harder to carry out attacks thanks to a new explosives detector developed by Turkish scientists.

Peroxide-based explosives, such as triacetone triperoxide (TATP) and hexamethylenetetramine (HMTD), are popular among terrorists as the ingredients to make them are easily available.

But now, terrorists may find it harder to carry out attacks using such chemicals thanks to a new chemical detector that has been developed by Resat Apak and colleagues from Istanbul University.

In Apak’s sensor, a sample is acid hydrolysed and passed over a Nafion membrane containing a copper-neocuproine complex that turns yellow if it detects the slightest amount of TATP or HMTD.

The sensor would be ideal for post-blast analysis and identifying unknown materials or suspect packages confiscated by the police, said Apak. It is cheap to make, easy to use and suffers no interference from other contaminants.

The researchers’ ultimate aim is to produce a hand-held system based on the sensor that can be used at points such as underground ticket barriers or airport security checks to prevent potential bombers from reaching their destination.

A description of the sensor was recently published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal, Analyst.