Monday, 1 November 2010

PETN and Lead Azide

That explosive 'sniffers' at East Midlands failed to detect either of these substances is deeply worrying. Both are not only widely used and commercially available substances, they are a proven combination and used in every electric det in the world. Lead Azide ignites rapidly from a small electric charge through a wire filament, and the heat sets off the PETN. This in turn usually sets off a larger quantity of more stable explosive such as Gelignite, but it's the high VOD (velocity of detonation) of the PETN that gives the 'kick' to the main charge. It's also widely used in det cord - a plastic covered 'rope' of PETN that looks like washing line, handy by itself for felling small trees and the like and often initiated by poking a length of slow fuse in the end. The thought that PETN can fly about the world undetected by sniffers fills me with dread. If you've ever banged-off an electric det, a little aluminium tube the diameter of a ciggie holding half a teaspoon of PETN, you'll know the danger. 

C'mon boffins. This is urgent. 
(Um, in case you're wondering I trained and qualified quite legitimately in this sort of stuff as a sort of early career cul-de-sac)


George Speller said...

Know all about explosives, do wer? Come on lad, you're nicked!

Anonymous said...

You can tell that to the Judge, melad - you're knicked - and where's your copy of the koran, anyway?

Anonymous said...

As a freight hauler with a large airline you should understand that we often carry explosives as cargo. We also carry some pretty nasty chemicals that I would not be allowed to take on board in my hand baggage. A bit silly really when, as a crew member, I have unfettered access to the cargo.
The problem is that any number of loaders, some of whom cannot trace their lineage back to Waterloo, also have unfettered access to the cargo, including, when carried, the explosives.

Far be it from me to suggest that only sixth generation Englishmen should be allowed to work at the airport but.....

Sean said...

Give the contract for airport security to the Israelis.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

What Sean said.

Also, speaking as a chemist (which I am), I suspect that anything in a properly sealed and shielded container, will be undetectable.

Remember that it doesn't have to be very big.

This may well be an un-mitigatable risk.

Castors said...

That explosive 'sniffers' at East Midlands failed to detect either of these substances is deeply worrying.

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