INDEPTH: LONDON BOMBING
CBC News Online | July 25, 2005
In initial reports from the July 7, 2005, bombings in London, police officials
said the bombs' destructive power and small size meant they must have been
made using high explosives, not a crude homemade concoction.
Soon, though, it became clear that they were homemade bombs, the explosive
perhaps mixed in a bathtub and distilled in a kitchen, its chemical components
available at the local pharmacist.
Chemists call it acetone peroxide, triacetone triperoxide (TATP) or tri-cyclo,
but to Middle Eastern bomb makers, its power and unpredictability have earned
it the nickname Mother of Satan.
Its ingredients are familiar, even to those who have never set foot in a chemistry
Acetone: an industrial solvent and the main ingredient in nail polish remover.
Hydrogen peroxide: a common disinfectant and component in hair bleach.
Any strong acid, as a catalyst: sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid.
Mixing these components in the right proportions under the right conditions
will result in an explosive, triacetone triperoxide, or TATP. However, TATP
is highly unstable and sensitive to heat. A bump can be enough to detonate
And because it's so unstable, TATP can't be stored for long periods of time.
It degrades and evaporates in just a few days, becoming useless as an explosive.
For this reason it is not used by military forces, but continues to be used
in suicide bombings, such as the attacks on the London transit system this
Some have speculated that the TATP used in the July 7 and July 25 bombings
of the London transit system may have come from the same batch, which would
explain why the bombs on July 25 didn't go off.: the explosive degraded in
the two weeks between the bombings.
Richard Reid, the British "shoe bomber" arrested in December 2001,
used TATP in the detonator for the plastic explosives hidden in his shoes.