Montag, 7. Mai 2007

Does Sniffex Know Chemistry?

The report posted at the top of the page, including correspondence with the USA distributers of Sniffex raises a good point. As another reader pointed out, the inventor and salesmen of Sniffex apparently do not understand chemistry. One excuse for Sniffex failing to detect ammunition and smokeless gunpowder, that was provided by the inventor, is that "the quantity of nitrous oxide ions in powder is very small." Ironically, this is true, but it underlines a huge flaw in the theory behind how Sniffex allegedly works.

At least 13 times in the Sniffex Training and User Manual, they refer to "nitrous oxide" as the basis of explosives.

Page 6 - Sniffex® is the next generation’s alternative technology for the detection of nitrous oxide based explosives and weapons.

Page 7 - Sniffex® is a pocket-sized, hand held device for the detection of a wide variety of explosives including, but not limited to, TNT, dynamite, ammonite (diesel), PETN, RDX, gunpowder, Semtex, C4, and all nitrous oxide based explosives. Sniffex® works on the basis of its ability to detect the presence of nitrous oxide (free) radicals within its effective range...Additionally, Sniffex® appears to be just as effective at finding fired weapons as finding nitrous oxide based explosives.

Page 8 - Sniffex® detects all types of explosives on the basis of the presence of nitrous oxide radicals. Sniffex® operates only when in contact with the hand because of the human body interface.

Page 11 - When Sniffex® detects a nitrous oxide based explosive or a weapon that has been fired, the antenna “points” or rotates in the direction of the explosive or weapon.

Page 49 - Q: What types of explosives can Sniffex® detect?
A: Sniffex® detects nitrous oxide based explosives such as TNT, dynamite, ammonium nitrate (diesel), PETN, RDX, Semtex, gunpowder, and C4.

And so on...

One of the biggest problems I have with this explanation of how Sniffex finds explosives is that explosives are NOT based on nitrous oxide.

This is nitrous oxide:

Nitrous oxide has TWO nitrogen atoms and ONE oxygen atom.

Most explosives are based on nitro or nitroxy (nitrate) functional groups. ONE nitrogen atom with two or three oxygen atoms.
The R represents the where the functional group is bonded to rest of the molecule.
Nitro group

Nitrate or nitroxy group

Sniffex claims that it can detect the "nitrous oxide" in explosives such as:


Dynamite (usually nitroglycerin with stabilizers)

Ammonium nitrate and diesel or fuel oil (ANFO)
Ammonium nitrate -



Smokeless gunpowder (primarily nitroglycerin and nitrocellulose)

Semtex is a mixture of PETN and RDX (see above)

C4 consists of a mixture of 91% RDX plus plasticizers, binders, etc.

Obviously, all of those explosives are based on nitro or nitrate functional groups, NOT nitrous oxide. This cannot be dismissed as simple confusion. In my opinion is shows an absolutely fundamental lack of understanding of how explosives work and how to detect them. If you do not know what something is made of, and are claiming to be trying to detect something else, how would your invention ever work? Would you trust your life to a device invented by someone whose understanding of chemistry is apparently so poor that he does not know the difference? Isn't it worrying that the device claims to be detecting the wrong thing? Why have TASC and Sniffex sellers not figured out this error after repeating it non-stop for the past two years in the manual, in advertising, in press releases, on web sites, and in interviews?