In our Post 9/11 Attacks world air travel has become more difficult and time consuming. We have to go through all sorts of checks, removing our shoes and so forth, and we can’t take seemingly mundane products onto the aircraft. Well, it seems that there might be a good reason for this restriction. As it turns out, terrorists based in the UK back in 2006 were targeting 7 airplanes with bombs made from Tang, the common household orange flavored instant breakfast beverage, and hydrogen peroxide, the common antiseptic.
As you can see in this video from Fox News, mixing these two common ingredients and using a flash bulb detonator can cause a powerful explosion, enough to breach the hull of an aircraft and causing explosive decompression, killing everyone on board very quickly.
The citric acid in the Tang combines with the bleach in the hydrogen peroxide to cause an explosive reaction. Sometimes additional chemicals are used to accelerate or intensify the explosion, most commonly hexamethylene triperoxide diamine which can also be easily made from common household items. These kinds of easy to make explosives were invented back in the early to mid 1800’s before more stable compounds, like dynamite, were invented. These improvised explosives are very unstable and sensitive to detonation from friction or contact with other compounds. For example, a chemistry major at the college I went to was experimenting with these compounds accidentally blew up a lab and burned himself badly.
Terrorist groups have found these explosive improvised from common household items to be of great value. They’re easy to smuggle into target areas and easy to assemble into a working bomb. And, if you don’t plan on getting away, easy to explode. That’s why they’re so dangerous. The materials for them can easily be concealed in a soda or shampoo bottle of normal size.
So, the next time you are upset that you can’t take your soda on the plane, remember, they’re actually looking out for your safety with this restriction.