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Anti-Explosive Spray

May 5, 2011

An inky spray changes color when explosives are detected.



Anti-explosive spray…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A new inklike substance made from metallic oxide nanoparticles can both detect explosives and render them harmless. According to Oklahoma State University industrial chemist Allen Apblett, a chemical reaction turns the dark blue material yellow in the presence of explosives.

ALLEN APBLETT (Oklahoma State University):

We were particularly interested in finding some reagents that essentially convert explosive compounds to non-explosive compounds. This blue ink can be sprayed on an explosive, and if the blue color turns colorless or yellow, it means you have essentially a strong oxidant present so that would detect a good number of the improvised explosives that are out there.


At the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, Apblett and his colleagues reported that bomb squads neutralize an explosive by soaking it in the ink until the yellow color turns back to a harmless blue. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.