Saturday, February 4, 2017

Bristol chemistry incident

Via the Chemistry Reddit, a rather unusual story (emphasis mine):
Several University of Bristol buildings have been evacuated, with unconfirmed reports suggesting that the emergency was sparked after a student produced TATP, an explosive used by terrorists, by mistake. 
The incident, which appears to have occurred in the Chemistry Building, has led to the evacuation of much of the University Way area. Five fire engines are believed to be on the scene, as well as several ambulances and an environmental response unit. A safety cordon has been extended down as far as Whiteladies Road. 
Multiple sources have told Epigram that the leak involves the tricatone triperoxide, a highly explosive chemical more commonly known as TATP. TATP is thought to have been the explosive used in the Paris attacks of 2015. Reports suggest that a third year PhD student accidentally made 90g of the chemical as a by-product...
It's my understanding that the 90 gram number is theoretical, that this was a pre-planned experiment, and that the powers that be were aware of it beforehand; it will be very interesting to see if there is a writeup of the incident that is broadly disseminated to confirm or deny this RUMINT.


  1. Maybe they were trying to do something with dimethyldioxirane and it went horribly wrong?

    1. Cant think of how DMDO would lead to this. I think it's more likely they were doing a reaction with hydrogen peroxide and decided acetone was an appropriate solvent.

  2. I meant to send this link over to CJ earlier:

    This wasn't my lab, but I was in the building at the time.

  3. Regarding accidental acetonperoxide formation: I heard of an accident in Germany, in academic lab, maybe 20 years ago. This is how it was described to me, by someone who was in that research group: A postdoc got an idea to run acid - catalyzed oxidation with 30% H2O2 in acetone, on multigram scale, he got lots of product, and he also noticed a sublimation of crystals from the evap residue on rotovap before the flask blew up. They had a shelf with lab solvent bottles right next to the rotovap - it got knocked over and ignited, and as this was in the corner isle, there was a wall of flames between the chemist and the rest of the lab. The chemist got quite serious burns and had glass chunks surgically removed, spent months in hospital but kept all his fingers and eyesight.

  4. Question for all-Can 3 equivalents dimethyldioxirane under certain conditions (heterolytic?) rearrange into 1 equivalent of TATP? Just askin!