Metallic Oxide Nanoparticles Render Explosives Harmless

By: 
Cameron Chai

A research team at the Oklahoma State University has developed and tested a spray-on material that can identify and make explosives that are carried on aircraft harmless.

The detector and neutralizer that resemble ink were recently unveiled at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), held in Anaheim.

According to Allen Apblett, who led the team said that the material can be used in multiple areas such as battlefields, airports, and subways. The ink-like substance has been fabricated from miniscule metallic oxide nanoparticles. The color of the ink changes from dark blue to pale yellow or transparent when in the vicinity of explosives. From being a metallic conductor it changes into a non-conducting substance, enabling electronic detecting.

This feature ensures that it can rapidly track the vapors emitted by explosives. In the form of a wearable sensor, it can be used as a badge on a uniform. It can alternately be used as a paper-based test strip. It can also be used as a stand-alone system. It could also be designed into a piece of jewelry or mobile phone.

It could be sprayed onto explosives or any unattended package that looks suspicious long enough for the color to change indicating that the explosive has been neutralized. The ink has been made from nanoparticles of a compound of molybdenum, a metal used in missile and aircraft components. The dark blue ink responds to peroxide explosives and becomes yellow or clear. The material can identify TATP vapors at even 50 parts per million within seconds. The feature enables it to be used as a neutralizer. The team added the material to TATP or HMTD and rendered them non-explosive. The team has founded Xplosafe, a company that will develop and retail the material.

The research was funded by the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, the National Science Foundation, Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, Xplosafe, and Oklahoma State University.

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