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International Journal of Energetic Materials and Chemical Propulsion
ESCI SJR: 0.149 SNIP: 0.16 CiteScore™: 0.29

ISSN Print: 2150-766X
ISSN Online: 2150-7678

International Journal of Energetic Materials and Chemical Propulsion

DOI: 10.1615/IntJEnergeticMaterialsChemProp.2014011493
pages 373-381


Jimmie C. Oxley
Chemistry Department, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island 02882, USA


Terrorism is the way of modern warfare. Although we discuss the chemical, explosive, and biological threat in relation to terrorism, explosives remain the weapons of choice because they have low technological and economic requirements. While there are feeble efforts to prevent people from becoming terrorists and larger efforts to prevent people from making bombs, major governmental resources have been aimed at finding bombs of unknown materials, put together in unknown fashion, and placed in unknown locations. From person-borne to vehicle-borne activities, law enforcement and counter-terrorism personnel have seen no end of threat situations. An overview of the history, existing practices, and potential future techniques of explosive detection will be presented in this paper. Emphasis will be given to technologies presently used in forensics and airport screening, including detection of bulk quantities and trace amounts. Despite almost thirty years of development only a few technologies have made it to wide-scale use. X-ray remains the principal bulk detection technology, while ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) retains a favored position in trace technologies and standoff detection has yet to find a front runner. Sample collection remains a challenge. In the past we have been surprised by terrorist attacks involving Semtex, urea nitrate, ammonium nitrate, triacetone triperoxide (TATP), hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD), hydrogen peroxide, and chlorates. Are available signatures adequate and where should we look for them?


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