Victoria University engineers have developed a rapid-screening tool aimed at enhancing screening and detection of homemade improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Improvised explosive devices using organic peroxide explosives (OPEs) have been responsible for several global terrorism events including sport stadiums and theatres (Paris 2015), airports (Brussels 2016) concert venues (Manchester 2017) and places of worship (Sri Lanka 2019).
What is the purpose of the research?
Extremely dangerous, OPEs can be made in ‘home laboratories’ from readily available materials. They can have devastating impact due to their extremely unstable nature.
Lead researcher Dr Parvez Mahbub said current screening can mistakenly pick up ingredients used in OPEs, as they are present in some household items and are easily accessible. “Things like nail polish remover, toothpaste or hair dye with peroxide components could show up in airport detection, but that doesn’t necessarily mean someone is carrying an IED,” he said.
“We employed two methods for rapid screening – acid hydrolysis and photolysis. They use minuscule amount of acids and advanced light sources such as LEDs to separate hazardous material from non-hazardous. It will be a cheaper, faster and portable screening process suitable for use at airports, other transportation hubs, and concerts,” Dr Mahbub said.
What does the research mean security organizations?
The research team have so far used discarded pig skins to test the efficacy of the tool, depositing known concentrations of organic peroxide explosives (OPEs) on the skin, swabbing and then screening. The next steps will be to validate the tool on humans. The results were published in peer-reviewed journal Analytica Chimica Acta.
“This research contributes to a future of low-cost, portable rapid screening and detection of multiple explosives that can be used by anybody, anywhere,” Dr Mahbub further added.
This study was an alliance between Victoria University, Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication, Monash Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences, CSIRO, RMIT, Australian Centre for Research on Separation Science, Brno University of Technology (from Czech Republic) and Mendel University (from Czech Republic). The research was funded by the Defence Science Institute.