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December 31, 2009
All about PETN
It is now widely known that the bomb carried aboard Northwest #253 on Christmas day was made with the highly explosive PETN powder, commonly used by Al Qaida. The Nigerian engineering student, who tried to set it off, went to the bathroom for 20 minutes, came back to his seat, covered his lap with a blanket and then tried to inject the powder with a syringe. The would-be bomber fumbled the job -- he did not let the gooey bomb mix "set up" long enough. (See here for how it is supposed to work.)
PETN, or Pentaerythritol tetranitrate, is the perfect explosive for terrorists like Al Qaida -- only a teeny, tiny amount is needed to blow up a car; it can be safely carried around in dry powder form; it takes some trouble, but not too much trouble, to mix it with a liquid, and KA-BOOM.
PETN was developed by German scientists in the late 1800s. It was used by the Germans in World War I.
PETN is also a medicine, used by heart patients as a vasodilator , much the same as nitroglycerine.
For do-it-yourselfers, quite a bit of information about making, concealing and exploding PETN is easily available on the internet.
Manufacturers of PETN are in India, China , and Eastern Europe. The EC21 Global B2B marketplace lists 56 manufacturers in China, 1 in India, and from Iran, 1 manufacturer and two distributors of PETN.
Behbood Farayand Control Company in Tehran, Iran advertises on PETN websites: "We are looking for explosives suppliers."
A Czech Republic company says, "Please do not hesitate to contact us," and "Explosives for military and civil use."
The Linyi DiYuan Foreign Economic Service Co, Ltd. in China sells PETN in 25 kilogram bags, enough to blow a good-sized chunk out of London. The company says PETN is used to make resins, paints, varnish, oils, coatings and sealants, and explosives. It delicately mentions that PETN can safely mix with water, but not certain other chemicals. It doesn't say why. Zi-mex in Canada sells PETN in 20 or 500 Kilogram bags. Pictures of its PETN line show the bags are made in China.
An American company, SpectraFluidics, has issued a news release in the aftermath of the Christmas bomb attempt. It is selling a device which detects powder molecules which was, developed at University of California Santa Barbara. However, the technology won’t be available for use until … next year.
From China, the biggest manufacturer of PETN, also comes what may be a safe, precise, and inexpensive technology. E-Security Technology Company in Zheizhang, China is online selling what it calls a "pocket-sized" bomb detector. Sales person Jackie Lee writes:
This model is a pocket-sized, hand held device for the detection of a wide variety of explosives. It can detect explosives from distances of up to 150 meters, even when the explosive is hidden behind walls or metal barriers such as building or vehicles. Moreover, it also has outstanding effective detection for fired weapon which is a must have instrument in antiterrorism area."Since PETN can be used as a medication, or a bomb, and it apparently is being cranked out by the boatload from the Third World to a people who mean to do us harm, it seems prudent for our to consider some sort of international discussion about its manufacture, distribution and detection.
"TNT, Dynamite, Ammonite (diesel), PETN, RDX, Gun powder, Semtex, C49. Other commercial explosives
Scenarios of application:
1.Building searches (warehouses, schools, banks)
4.Aircraft, luggage and cargo
7.Land mine detection
Unlike many devices that require the operator to be in close proximity to unstable explosives, offers safe localization of an explosive or weapon from a distance. It does not contain any dangerous chemicals or hazardous material. This makes it both environmentally friendly and safe for the operator to use.
There seem to be plenty of companies willing to cash in on American's airport security crisis, selling full-body scanners at six figures apiece, which might not even work for well-hidden PETN.
Might someone in homeland security want to give Jackie Lee a call over in Zheizhang province and see what her “pocket-size” sniff detector is all about?