What is PETN or to give its full form Pentaerythritol tetranitrate? This is the highly explosive substance that was found lying under a seat inside Uttar Pradesh Assembly prompting Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to demand an NIA probe into the matter. The white powder was found wrapped in a paper close to the seat of the Leader of the Opposition and Samajwadi Party MLA Ram Govind Choudhry. It’s ability to cause major destruction can be gauged from CM Adityanath’s statement. The Chief Minister said that 500 gm of this explosive is enough to blow up the House. The quantity of the explosive was 150 grams, he was quoted as saying by PTI. In a major security breach, even the dog squad failed to detect the explosive. CM Adityanath had termed the substance as a dangerous plastic explosive.
1. It is one of the most dangerous plastic explosives available in the black market and belongs to the same family as nitroglycerin. The explosive is preferred by militants as the colourless crystals easily pass through security checks.
2. The majority of explosive detectors use metal detectors, but PETN can be kept hidden in a sealed container or an electrical equipment and thus can easily pass through security checks.
3. Several countries have severe restrictions on the purchase of PETN which can be bought in powder form or thin plastic sheet. The substance is legally used by the military and in mining industries where it is used in detonators for detonating cords and mines. PETN can be mixed with other chemicals to form Semtex.
4. According to experts, PETN does not go off on its own. The explosive needs a secondary detonating mechanism to produce heat or a shockwave, which can detonate the explosive. The substance is stable and safe to handle, but requires a primary explosive to detonate it.
5. It has been learned that PETN substance has been used in number of bombing incidents over the years. Apart from reports of PETN explosives from all around the world, the substance is believed to have been used in the 2011 Delhi High Court blast, in which at least 17 people lost their lives.