What is PETN, the explosive found in the Uttar Pradesh assembly?

PETN or Pentaerythritol tetranitrate is powerful explosive found in the UP assembly.

india Updated: Jul 14, 2017 18:34 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
PETN,PETN explsive,Uttar Pradesh Assembly
Uttar Pradesh police conducting a security check at the Vidhan Bhavan in Lucknow after explosives were detected on the premises on July 12. (Subhankar Chakraborty/HT Photo)

Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath has confirmed that security personnel found explosive in the state assembly on July 12, following a search by a dog squad. A forensic examination later revealed that the explosive was 150 gms of PETN, which was found under a chair.

What is PETN?

Pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) is a very powerful, plastic explosive that looks like white powder. PETN is mixed with other chemicals to make Semtex, which is used by military and mining industries.

How does PETN work?

PETN depends on a secondary device for detonation, which is done through either a heat wave or a shock wave. A very small amount of explosive is needed to cause a big blast.

How can PETN be detected?

It is hard to detect PETN through security x-ray machines since it is non-metallic. Sniffer dogs, searches that swab passengers’ clothes or “puffer machines” that analyse residues can detect PETN.

Cases involving the use of PETN:

In 2001, British national and ‘show bomber’ Richard Reid made a failed attempt to detonate PETN hidden in his sneakers on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami. Reid tried to set off the explosive by lighting a fuse protruding from his shoes, but flight attendants thwarted his attempts by restraining him and administering a sedative.

In 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old boarded a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit on Christmas Day with a PETN device hidden in his underwear. Abdulmutallab’s device had a chemical detonator, which he set off before the plane reached Detroit. ()

In 2010, two expertly-made PETN package bombs were discovered on cargo flights from Yemen to Chicago. The bombs were seized in Dubai and the United Kingdom.

In 2011, security personnel investigating the Delhi High Court blasts that killed 17, claimed that a nitrate-based explosive laced with PETN was used in the blast.

First Published: Jul 14, 2017 13:37 IST