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Forensic Science

Chemistry in Pictures: An explosive contaminant

by Craig Bettenhausen
May 3, 2019

 

20190503lnp20-anexplosivecon.jpg
Credit: Daniel McAteer

Daniel McAteer’s team at Cranfield University found a simple way to detect the explosive, and sometime wastewater contaminant, 3-nitro-1,2,4-triazol-5-one (NTO). They came across the idea when they added base to an aqueous solution of the chemical and got a vivid orange color. That simple insight, combined with “lots of hard work,” McAteer says, resulted in a color test that takes only a few seconds to do, is sensitive to ppm levels of the explosive, and requires only a base and eyes. This photo shows decreasing concentrations of NTO: 10,000 ppm on the left to 0 ppm on the right. Read the full paper: Propellants, Explos., Pyrotech. 2018, DOI: 10.1002/prep.201800239.

Submitted by Daniel McAteer

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