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The alleged transatlantic bombers were planning to mix liquids in aeroplane toilets to form instant explosives. Is the chemistry really that simple?

By Philip Ball   October 2006

Chemical reassurance

It is not easy to make TNT, as I once discovered by boiling toluene and nitric acid during a school lunchtime to no great effect. Neither is it terribly hard—recipes can be found on the web, and the raw materials at DIY shops—but a little chemical experience provides some perspective on how difficult it is to concoct an aircraft-busting explosive in the cabin toilet. So it is not surprising chemists have expressed doubts about the alleged plot to blow up transatlantic flights. Could two liquids really be combined on a plane to make an instant explosive?

The plotters…

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