As if police officers didn’t have enough problems, the threat of high-powered explosives continues to grow as terrorists (home-grown and international) become more adept at synthesizing dangerous chemical compounds. Becoming familiar with some of the precursors to home made explosives can increase your own safety, and help prevent a deadly terrorism incident in your own jurisdiction. See also my post on bottle bombs here.
Peroxide-based explosives, or the hydrogen peroxide bomb, can be made into liquid or solid explosives using things reasonably available things. If you will reach back to your high school chemistry class, you may recall that hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizer. Mixing concentrated hydrogen peroxide (CHP) with a fuel can create a liquid explosive. Fuels such as acetone and ethanol may be used, but even things like black pepper and sugary drink powders can be used. Different fuels mixed with varying concentrations of CHP can create explosives that range from high energy to low energy.
Liquid peroxide-based explosives have been used in a variety of international terrorist incidents, the highest profile being the attacks on the London transit system in 2005. The terrorists in the foiled 2006 plot to blow up several airplanes were also planning on using liquid peroxide-based bombs.
Two different solid peroxide-based explosives can be synthesized from liquid peroxide explosives. They are triacetonetriperoxide (TATP) and hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD). Both of these compounds are very dangerous to make, handle, and use, as they detonate very easily. Keep this in mind should you ever stumble across someone who might be mixing this stuff up. Due to its unstable nature, it has been nicknamed the “Mother of Satan.”
TATP is normally seen as crystals, and HMTD is seen as powder.
TATP and HMTD have been used in a myriad of explosions such as:
- an alleged member of the Glass Dessert Underground anarchist group who died in an explosion while making TATP in July 2006 in Texas
- a University of Oklahoma student died while carrying TATP that exploded outside a college football game in October 2005
- a man was convicted in 2002 of making HMTD in an apparent attempt to commit acts of terror in in the UK
- the “Millennium Bomber” had, among other explosives, HMTD in his possession as part of his planned attack on LAX
So, while I won’t tell you how to mix this stuff up yourself to make a hydrogen peroxide bomb, I will tell you a few things you should pay attention to while on traffic stops, or when you are in someone’s home. If you run into something you suspect may be one of these nasty substances, back off and call the guys in the funny suits.
Chemicals to watch for:
- hydrogen peroxide antiseptic
- hair coloring
- wood bleach
- nitro methane
- sulfuric acid
- citric acid
- haxamine (solid fuel for camp stoves)
Indicators of manufacturing:
- foul odors/caustic fumes
- paint discoloration
- metal corrosion
- structural damage
- strong chemical odors from exterior drains/sewers
- multiple fans in multiple windows
- dead vegetation
- refrigerators and coolers