New Book Provides in-Depth Analysis of Explosives

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Dr. Jehuda Yinon

The bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and of London's financial district, as well as numerous other terrorist outrages have created significant interest in the recently published Modern Methods and Applications in Analysis of Explosives, by Dr. Jehuda Yinon of the Institute and Dr. Shmuel Zitrin of the Israel Police. The work touches upon several issues that have received widespread attention lately, such as the analysis of post-blast residues found in debris. Identification of such traces can often be used to connect a suspect to the scene of a crime, as was the case with the World Trade Center explosion.

Also described are methods for identifying traces of explosives on suspects' hands and clothing, as well as in their houses and cars.
The book begins with an in-depth categorization of the most commonly used explosives, followed by an explanation of the latest techniques for analyzing them, including mass spectrometry and gas chromatography. Detection of explosives is no less important than their analysis and Yinon and Zitrin deal extensively with the most modern methods for revealing explosive materials in suitcases, vehicles, aircraft, etc. These techniques include fast-neutron scattering and transmission, sophisticated "sniffers" that react to vapors emanating from the explosives, and the projection of an X-ray image on a fluorescent screen -- especially useful for detecting letter bombs.

Dr. Shmuel ZitrinA related area is that of "identification tags," substances added by manufacturers in order to facilitate the detection of well-concealed explosives. The tags emit easily detectable vapors that contain a "code" identifying not only the type of explosive used, but also the manufacturer and the shipment batch. "Tagging" has been gaining currency in recent years, and it is compulsory in Switzerland.

The authors warn that most explosives are toxic and constitute a general environmental problem. A single TNT manufacturing plant, for example, can generate as much as 500,000 gallons of wastewater per day, containing not only TNT but other toxic nitro compounds as well. Moreover, for many years obsolete munitions were simply dumped in the sea. Yinon and Zitrin provide information that can be useful in combating such pollution.

The book was published by Wiley.
Copy of news report (New York Times) on the Trade Center bombing