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ABC News Has Video of a Liquid Bomb, But Could It Be Built on a Plane?

Wired | August 9, 2007
Ryan Singel

Government scientists who copied the liquid bombers plans were able to create a sizable explosion using commonly available liquids, and anti-terrorism expert Richard Clarke says the video shows that people should be grateful for the ban on liquids at the airport, ABC News reports .

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff also told ABC News that the plotters had the intent to create a disaster on par with 9/11, though his comment was carefully worded to leave out whether the plotters were anywhere near pulling off the attack or were even capable of it, questions that remain unanswered.

The components of that explosives mixture can be bought at any drugstore or supermarket; however, there is some question whether the potential terrorists would have had the skill to properly mix and detonate their explosive cocktails in-flight.

But they can work scientists at Sandia National Laboratory conducted a test using the formula, and when a small amount of liquid in a container was hit with a tiny burst of electrical current, a large explosion followed.

But not everyone is convinced by the big boom in ABC News's video. One commenter writes back:

What a profanation this film is. Although liquid-based explosives (in this case acetone triperoxide - ATP) can yield enermous destruction, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PREPARE THEM ONBOARD. Firstly, to prepare ATP from liquid ingredients (acetone and hydrogen peroxide - H2O2), one needs to have the ENTIRE CHEMISTRY LABORATORY on board - including liquid titrator (drop-wise mixing ingredients - quite a big piece of equipment, hard to hide in hand luggage), adjustable constant-speed mixer (another strange equipment that is impossible to hide), cooler with kilograms of finely powedered ice supply (highly efficient cooling is needed, and simple ice cubes are not efficient enough - they must be crunched into snow-like powder - imagine carrying all this into plain), ventilation system (mixing acetone with H2O2 produces enormous smell - too big to carry by a single man - must be installed on-board in advance). Secondly - you need several hours of undisturbed work - imagine someone ocuppying lavatory for entire flight and producing unimaginable smell there... Thirdly - both ingredients (acetone and H2O2) are impossible to confuse with sportsdrinks - unless you are so dump (sic) that you cannot distinguish acetone from water. Sooo.... the film simply scares us by showing an explosion that cannot be produced onboard - likewise they could have shown us an explosion of Hiroshima bomb
I'm no chemistry major, so I'd love to hear from anyone who can tell me more about building a liquid bomb on a plane - or sneaking one on pre-assembled.

 

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