Israeli researchers have developed a device that identifies a previously undetectable explosive commonly used by terrorists. The device is called a Peroxide Explosive Tester (PET). It determines whether or not a suspicious substance is triacetone triperoxide (TATP). The PET, which resembles a three-color ballpoint pen, releases three chemical mixtures that change color when they interact with TATP. TATP and other explosives of the peroxide family are used extensively by terrorist organizations around the world because they are easy to prepare and difficult to detect. Many of the devastating suicide attacks by terrorists over the past few years involved TATP, including the bus explosions in Israel. The researchers, who hail from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, are in negotiation to commercialize the PET, and they say interest from law-enforcement agencies has been high. Most explosives are energetic materials, and they have a lot of energy chemically stored in them. In an explosion, that energy is released suddenly, generating a huge amount of heat. The heat, in turn, creates the explosive expansion. The usual technique for producing explosives is to add energy to the explosive substance in the form of heat. TNT, for example, must cook at a high temperature for its high-energy chemical bonds to form. Because nitrogen compounds are good at storing energy, most conventional explosives contain nitrogen, a property that makes them relatively easy to detect. But TATP is different from most explosives. It is formed at room temperature and does not require any input of heat. Nor does TATP contain nitrogen compounds. It is in fact a carbohydrate-type compound somewhat related to sugar. A key to the Israeli development was in understanding how TATP can explode even though energy is not pumped into it initially as heat. The research team demonstrated that TATP explodes not by releasing thermal energy,
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