The tragic loss of 298 lives on board Malaysian Air Flight MH17 has left the bereaved and global Governments calling for answers. The main question being, who is truly responsible for this atrocity? With Russia, saying one thing, and Ukraine and the West another, it seems impossible to know the truth. However, a British company has developed a solution that would be truly invaluable at the scene of such disasters.
When 70 Kg of high explosive detonates in the vicinity of an aircraft throwing shrapnel through the fuel tanks, flight control systems, and fuselage causing massive secondary explosions at 32,000 feet the target aircraft disintegrates. This is could have been the fate of Flight MH17, if it was indeed attacked by an anti-aircraft missile as suggested.
No matter how intense the secondary explosion, or how far the debris is scattered, one thing remains from a forensic perspective – explosive residue from the missile warhead would have been literally been blown all over the debris, leaving a molecular residue that can be analysed to confirm the source.
Until now, analysis required sophisticated laboratories, equipped with devices costing tens of thousands of dollars for the molecular components from an explosive event to be examined to determine what type of explosive has been used, thus leading to the source.
That may not be the case for much longer. A British research company has developed a testing capability akin to a pregnancy test that is able to forensically analyse explosive residue at part per billion concentrations, much smaller than you would get from a missile explosion, and identify what explosive was used. With the aid of a simple reading device, concentrations can be identified and the mix of different materials determined.
Minimally trained personnel can do this on the ground at a disaster scene and it takes only a few minutes to get definitive results. No sophisticated equipment or training is required and there is no long wait. Merely a series of ‘dip sticks’, pre-tuned to explosive types and concentrations, a few swabs and a dip into the solution.
As the dipsticks are ‘tuned’ to a particular molecule, and use what is know as a ‘positive’ test, if that molecule is present you get a response, if the molecule isn’t present you don’t. This means that false readings are highly unlikely.
If this solution were in use at the crash site, the investigation teams currently on the ground in Eastern Ukraine could have a result within minutes, stating exactly what explosive residue there is to been found on MH17 debris.
Selective Antibodies Limited has developed this revolutionary technology thanks to funding from competitive programmes such as LINK Awards, Governmental contracts and EU programmes. This new product for explosive testing has come as a result of a competitive €4.4m three-year European Framework VII Security programme that Selective Antibodies recently completed and has been endorsed by many organisations across the EU.
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