The colorimetric sensor array (Shoe photo: Rama)
The handheld TATP detector prototype (Photo: Kenneth Suslick)
Much as we might hate having to take our shoes off when going through airport security, it’s become necessary ever since a terrorist managed to get a shoe bomb aboard an American Airlines flight in December of 2001. Unfortunately, the X-raying of shoes is not enough to detect triacetone triperoxide (TATP). This easily-made explosive has been used in several bombing attempts, and is very difficult to detect in an airport environment. It doesn't fluoresce, absorb ultraviolet light or readily ionize, and can only be detected with large, expensive equipment and extensive sample preparation. Now, chemists from the University of Illinois have announced a simple new way of detecting even minute concentrations of TATP, using a piece of plastic and a digital camera.
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