• Melbourne Christmas Day terror suspects had “mother of Satan” chemicals: Expert

    A court in Australia was told that volatile chemical explosives, nicknamed “mother of Satan,” were found in the possession of four men accused of plotting a Christmas Day terrorist attack in Melbourne. The Australian reports that federal police chemicals expert Dr. Vincent Otieno-Alego told Melbourne magistrates court on Tuesday that he analyzed substances that could produce up to 2g of triacetone triperoxide (TATP).

  • Detecting concealed weapon, threat is not easy, and experience is no help to police officers

    Detecting potential threats is part of the job for police officers, military personnel and security guards. Terrorist attacks and bombings at concerts, sporting events and airports underscore the need for accurate and reliable threat detection. However, the likelihood of a police officer identifying someone concealing a gun or bomb is only slightly better than chance, according to new research. Officers with more experience were even less accurate.

  • Identifying toxic threats, preparing for surprise

    Predicting chemical attacks is no small task, especially when there are so many toxic substances. There is no crystal ball to aid us in sorting through them all to identify and characterize the potential threats. Instead, intelligence and defense communities use a broad network of tools to forecast hazards to safeguard our warfighters and nation. A new project from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) seeks to improve the U.S. defensive capability by creating a crystal ball to more rapidly determine the toxicity of such chemical hazards and increase our ability to prepare for surprise.

  • Experimental box to track nuclear activity by rogue nations

    Researchers are carrying out a research project at Dominion Power’s North Anna Nuclear Generating Station in Virginia that could lead to a new turning point in how the United Nations tracks rogue nations that seek nuclear power. The years-long project centers on a high-tech box full of luminescent plastic cubes stacked atop one another that can be placed just outside a nuclear reactor operated by, say, Iran. The box would detect subatomic particles known as neutrinos produced by the reactor, which can be used to track the amount of plutonium produced in the reactor core.

  • Breakthrough in countering deadly VX

    First developed in the United Kingdom in the early 1950s, VX is one of the most toxic chemical weapon threats facing soldiers on the battlefield – and civilians as well, as the use by VX by Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad shows. DoD currently uses the Reactive Skin Decontamination Lotion (RSDL) for broad-spectrum agent elimination on unbroken skin, but a capability gap exists for treating chemical agent exposure to large affected areas or open wounds.

  • New optical device detects drugs, bomb-making chemicals

    Scientists searching for traces of drugs, bomb-making components, and other chemicals often shine light on the materials they’re analyzing. This approach is known as spectroscopy, and it involves studying how light interacts with trace amounts of matter. One of the more effective types of spectroscopy is infrared absorption spectroscopy, which scientists use to sleuth out performance-enhancing drugs in blood samples and tiny particles of explosives in the air.

  • A spate of acid attacks in London is part of an international problem

    A series of five acid attacks in one night in London has created a moment for the British government to take a more public stance on this growing problem. Available statistics suggest a sharp rise in attacks with corrosive substances in the United Kingdom. Data produced by the Metropolitan Police reveal that there were 455 crimes involving corrosive substances in London alone in 2016. Dozens of incidents have been reported so far this year. It is also clear that acid violence is a global problem. Acid Survivors Trust International reports a significant number of attacks in India, Colombia, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Uganda, and Cambodia. There is thus a need to think about how to identify and support good practice internationally – in terms of prevention and supporting victims. This can help the efficient sharing of expertise and resources globally.

  • New class of chemical vapor sensors

    An interdisciplinary team of scientists demonstrated that monolayer 2D Transition Metal Dichalcogenides (TMDs) — atomically thin semiconductors — undergo a change from semiconductor-to-metallic phase when exposed to airborne chemical vapors. The team validated optical and electronic evidence of the phase transition and how the behavior can be used to create an entirely new class of chemical vapor sensors. This new class of instruments are potentially more sensitive than current state-of-the-art models, and selective to specific nerve agents and explosive compounds which are of great concern on today’s battlefields.

  • There were dirty bomb ingredients in ISIS-controlled Mosul

    Two years ago, researchers at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Science and International Security discovered that there were apparently two sources of radioactive cobalt in Mosul which posed a risk of being used in a dirty bomb. Mosul came under DAESH (ISIS) control a year earlier. The Institute, for security reasons, did not publish the results of the research, choosing instead to share it with the U.S. intelligence community. Now that Mosul has been liberated, the Washington Post, on Saturday, ran an exclusive story on the topic. DAESH never used the radioactive materials, and it is not clear whether the Islamist organization was aware of the radioactive sources under their control.

  • Compact, precise photons beam to aid in nuclear security

    A new, compact technique for producing beams of high-energy photons (particles of light) with precisely controlled energy and direction could “see” through thick steel and concrete to more easily detect and identify concealed or smuggled nuclear materials. These photons are similar to X-rays but have even higher photon energy than conventional X-rays, which lets them penetrate thick materials.

  • Lab mistakenly ships radioactive material aboard commercial plane

    Employees at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have been fired and disciplinary action against other personnel was taken after small amounts of radioactive material were mistakenly shipped aboard a commercial cargo plane. Nuclear experts say the mishap could have led to serious consequences. The rapid pressure changes during flights could have damaged the packaging, causing radiation to escape.

  • New technique detects radioactive material even after it is gone

    A new technique allows researchers to characterize nuclear material that was in a location even after the nuclear material has been removed – a finding that has significant implications for nuclear nonproliferation and security applications. The technique could identify and characterize a dirty bomb based on samples taken from a room the bomb was in a year ago. “This is a valuable tool for emergency responders, nuclear nonproliferation authorities and forensics, because it allows us to get a rough snapshot of the size of a radiation source, where it was located, how radioactive it is, and what type of radioactive material it is,” a researcher says.

  • Decrease in lead exposure in early childhood likely responsible for drop in crime rate

    Exposure to lead in the preschool years significantly increases the chance that children will be suspended or incarcerated during their school careers, according to new research. Conversely, a drop in exposure leads to less antisocial behavior and thus may well be a significant factor behind the drop in crime over the past few decades.

  • Addressing the threat of vehicle-borne IEDs

    In July of 2016, a refrigerator truck packed with explosives detonated next to a crowded apartment block in Baghdad’s Karrada neighborhood. The blast killed 323 people and was one of the worst Vehicle–Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED also known as car bombs) attacks ever recorded. On 30 May 2017, a VBIED in a tanker truck ripped through the embassy quarter of Kabul, killing more than 150 people. DHS S&T has taken measures to address this threat directly.

  • More rigorous approach to training of explosive-detecting dogs

    With a sense of smell much greater than humans, dogs are considered the gold standard for explosive detection in many situations. But that does not mean there is no room for improvement. In a new study, scientists report on a new, more rigorous approach to training dogs and their handlers based on real-time analysis of what canines actually smell when they are exposed to explosive materials.