The newest member to the explosives-detecting family doesn’t come in the form of another high-tech electronic device that will begin beeping like mad when it happens to chance upon a bomb. No, this one actually comes in a spray bottle and is easy to bring along to the field.
Introducing Xplosafe‘s Xplosens line of bomb detection and bomb neutralizing products that hope to make the world a safer place from improvised explosive devices that are chlorate-based and peroxide-based (such as those composed of triacetone triperoxide and hexamethylene triperoxide diamine).
At the 241st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), scientists presented the development and successful initial testing of a liquid ink-like material that can be directly sprayed onto any devices that are suspected to be improvised explosives. These types of bombs are those that are most commonly associated with the ones that terrorists carry on-board planes and and subways.
“This stuff is going to be used anywhere terrorist explosives are used,” Study leader Dr. Allen Apblett, who is a chemist at the Oklahoma State University and is one of the founders of Xplosafe, emphasizes. He adds: “It’s going to save lives.”
And save lives it shall. The explosive-detecting substance is a type of ink composed of tiny metallix oxide nanoparticles; particles so small that over 50,000 of it can fit inside the diameter of the sharp point of a needle. The color of the ink is originally dark blue but it will change in color to pale yellow or clear in the presence of explosives due to a chemical reaction between the two. In the process, it also transforms from a metallic conductor to a non-conducting material, enabling electronic sensing as well.
The ink provides a quick way of testing materials and devices that are suspected to be bombs. Aside from functioning as a sensor, it can also neutralize the explosives at hand. Spraying the ink onto the suspicious packages and bombs until the color changes will indicate that the devices are no longer a threat. The explosives can also be submerged into vats that contain the ink to neutralize them. Convenient, quick, and easy.
Dr. Apblett cites several incidents in the past where terrorists and other bombers utilized peroxide-based explosives, such as in 2001 in the case of the “shoe bomber”, Richard Reid. Fortunately, he was arrested before he was able to detonate his bomb, but this incident raised concerns on these fairly easy-to-make explosives as the current methods used to detect them are ineffective.
With the aim of developing the material further and marketing it, Dr. Apblett and several of his colleagues have founded Xplosafe. The scientists acknowledge funding from the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, the National Science Foundation, the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, Xplosafe, and Oklahoma State University.