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 Nature of the Explosions/Explosives, Power surges? High explosives? Timers?
Posted: Dec 31 2010, 02:30 PM

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– A Review: 2004 to 2007 –
Sean Doyle, B.Sc.
Principal Scientist, The Forensic Explosives Laboratory
Dstl, Fort Halstead, Sevenoaks, Kent TN14 7BP, UK
Greg Czarnopys, B.S.
Chief, Forensic Science Laboratory - Washington
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
6000 Ammendale Road
Ammendale, Maryland 20705, USA

QUOTE ("PDF page 134")

The terrorist attacks in London during July of 2005 were perpetrated employing an
improvised explosive main charge that had been rarely encountered elsewhere in the
world. These novel explosives, abbreviated to hydrogen peroxide organic materials
(HPOM), presented challenges at the scene, laboratory and in court. A separate
section of the report deals with these issues.

QUOTE ("PDF page 145")

Isotope profiling
Isotopic analysis played a major role in the prosecution and conviction of those
accused of the failed bombings in London on the 21st of July 2005
[63]. Benson et al
have conducted a review of the forensic applications of light stable isotope mass
spectrometry (IRMS) including explosives. The discriminatory power of IRMS is
emphasized as is the work yet to be done to ensure this technique is fit for purpose in
a forensic context [64]. Perrini et al have begun to address the interpretational issues
related to IRMS data and have proposed a likelihood ratio approach [65]. David
Rendle, in his review of chemical advances in forensic science, highlights the potential
impact of the technique in forensic science [66].

QUOTE ("PDF page 150")

Hydrogen Peroxide Oxidiser Materials (HPOM)
The first recorded mention of HPOM in a terrorist context was in Jordan in April 2004.
While the plot was foiled, it seems that the intention was to mix hydrogen peroxide
(HP) with ground cumin as the fuel [103].
The attacks in London in July of 2005 involved the first use of HPOM in the UK. The
attacks of July 7 are still under investigation
. However, the investigation and judicial
process relating to the attacks of July 21 are for the most part completed
, and thus
some of the details are now in the public domain.
The IEDs essentially comprised a mixture of flour and hydrogen peroxide as the main
charge, and a TATP-based improvised detonator manually initiated with a bridge wire
fed by a 9V PP3 battery. The bulk was held in a plastic container together with some
shrapnel, and the device was transported in a rucksack.
The detonator in each device functioned but the main charge did not initiate.
Recovered main charge was found to be in various states of reaction, and the bulk
exhibited unpredictable behaviour with some evidence of combustion. Extreme caution
was used when dealing with bulks at the scene, transporting it to the laboratory and at
the laboratory.
As the main charge had not initiated the defence sought to rely on the argument that
the devices were hoaxes and the accused did not intend the devices to function.
Addressing these hypotheses required two areas of work – the explosives
characterization of the bulk explosives [104] and a study of the improvised detonator
These bodies of work demonstrated that a 30:70 mixture of flour and 59% (w/w)
hydrogen peroxide was ‘cap’ sensitive and that the improvised detonator was capable
of supplying sufficient energy to detonate the main charge. The devices failed to
function because the hydrogen peroxide used in the main charge was less
concentrated than the suspects believed it to be.
In addition, methods for concentrating hydrogen peroxide and the relationship
between concentration and density were also studied as part of the technical
investigation into the events of July 21 [106].
It should be noted that the 'explosives' charge was dropped in the July 21st prosecution case:
The jury were told a further charge of conspiracy to cause explosions likely to endanger life, faced by each man, was now being left off the indictment. Source: BBC 7th June 2007:21/7 accused are 'plainly guilty'

QUOTE ("PDF page 157")

Clair McGavigan, London Bombings 1 – Scenes and Initial Examination, DSTL, UK
Matthew Beardah, London Bombings 2 – Explosive Trials, Series 1 (main charge),
Clifford Todd, London Bombings 3 – Explosive Trials, Series 2 (detonator) and Court
Issues, DSTL, UK

This post has been edited by Sinclair on Dec 31 2010, 02:32 PM
Posted: Jan 3 2011, 03:30 PM

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Joined: 19-January 06

Good find, Sinclair.

The 59% concentration of hydrogen peroxide is noteworthy because it is possible to produce this without high tech equipment, in a domestic setting, using the freezing method (not by heating it in a saucepan on a cooker, which is the explanation in the public domain).

As far as I know, the Metropolitan Police have not responded to Postman Patel's challenge to release the evidence that there was a suitable refrigerator in the alleged "bomb flat": SPOT THE FRIDGE - Win a Million Pounds - Lord Patel's challenge to the Metropolitan Police.
Mark Gobell
Posted: Jan 3 2011, 11:48 PM

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Member No.: 302
Joined: 19-December 06

QUOTE (cmain @ Jan 3 2011, 03:30 PM)
Good find, Sinclair.

The 59% concentration of hydrogen peroxide is noteworthy because it is possible to produce this without high tech equipment, in a domestic setting, using the freezing method (not by heating it in a saucepan on a cooker, which is the explanation in the public domain).

As far as I know, the Metropolitan Police have not responded to Postman Patel's challenge to release the evidence that there was a suitable refrigerator in the alleged "bomb flat": SPOT THE FRIDGE - Win a Million Pounds - Lord Patel's challenge to the Metropolitan Police.

I'd be interested to know of the source for the 59% concentration by freezing method in a "domestic setting" without hi-tech equipment.

These patents are of interest in relation to Hydrogen Peroxide, liquid explosives and flour for explosive bread:

US Patent 3047441 - Hydrogen peroxide Explosives

US Patent 3047441 - Dated 31 July 1962 proposes using flour amongst other materials as an oxidiser.


Gelatinous Explosives - Page 1 far right hand column:

"The Hydrogen Peroxide solutions herein referred to may be combined with various gel-forming products from grains and other materials to produce gelatinous explosives adapted to be detonated with blasting caps.

For example I can use flours derived from wheat, corn, barley, oats, rye, buckwheat, malt, etc.

Other illustrations appear in starches made from corn, wheat, potatoes, manioc, tapioca etc. "

It seems that just about anything will make HP go bang with the right concentration.

US Patent 3808062 - Liquid Explosive Compositions of Hydrogen Peroxide

US Patent 3808062 - Dated 30 April 1974

I'm assuming Drs. Ian Vaughan and Matthew Beardah at DTSL (see papers04.pdf) are aware of these papers ?

Question is:

Is 59% H2O2 concentration, achievable "in a domestic setting" from the commercially available products the suspects are alleged to have purchased ?

This post has been edited by Mark Gobell on Jan 3 2011, 11:59 PM
Mark Gobell
Posted: Jan 4 2011, 12:07 AM

Group: Members
Posts: 384
Member No.: 302
Joined: 19-December 06


The attacks in London in July of 2005 involved the first use of HPOM in the UK. The attacks of July 7 are still under investigation.

And yet:

From Times Online
July 15, 2005

TATP is suicide bombers' weapon of choice

TATP is thought to have been used in used in various bomb attacks outside the Middle East, including on a Philippines Airlines flight to Japan in December 1994. It was also used as the trigger in two car bombs detonated in London in July 1994 outside the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish philanthropic institution. Two Palestinian students were later convicted of conspiracy over those bombings. [See]


European Court rejects appeal from Israel Embassy bombers

JONNY PAUL,  Jerusalem Post correspondent
06/10/2007 20:36

European Court of Human Rights dismisses request from pair who left 22 wounded in London attacks.

An appeal by two Palestinians convicted of bombing the Israeli Embassy and Balfour House, a Jewish community center, in London in 1994 was dismissed by the European Court of Human Rights last week. In December 1996, Samar Alami and Jawad Botmeh were sentenced at the Old Bailey to 20 years in prison, to would be followed by immediate deportation, for conspiracy to make, place and detonate bombs at the embassy and Balfour House in July 1994. Fourteen people were wounded at the embassy and eight at Balfour House. It is believed that Alami and Botmeh were trying to sabotage the Middle East diplomatic process. They were alleged to be members of, or sympathizers with, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, but, being dissatisfied with the terrorist group's official policy, had become part of a breakaway British group. In 1997 David Shayler, a former MI5 officer, said that some months prior to the bombings, the security services received information that a terrorist organization unconnected to the two convicted bombers was seeking information about the location and defenses of the embassy for a possible bombing attack. He was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act for giving secret information to a British newspaper. However the trial judge relied on related intelligence received after the bomb attack that the terrorist organization Shayler had not been responsible. An appeal by Alami and Botmeh to the Court of Appeal in November 2001 was dismissed. At the trial, Lord Justice Rose said: "Those who - whatever their motivation - place bombs in the heart of this city cannot expect their conduct to be treated by anything other than very substantial terms of imprisonment." In October 2004, Alami was transferred to Send Open Prison in Surrey, southeast England, and she is currently permitted weekend leaves.

The bombers were the first to use explosives in the UK made of triacetone triperoxide (TATP).

At their trial, the pair denied any involvement in the London bombings, but admitted to experimenting with TATP and model aircraft to develop techniques that could be used in the "occupied territories." Alami, a chemical engineer, admitted possessing other explosive devices and related literature. Botmeh, also an engineer, was alleged to have purchased the two cars that were used in the London attacks, and a large amount of TATP explosive of a different type to that used in the two bombs was found in a lock-up rented by him. The pair alleged that a Palestinian known to them as "Reeda," whom they were unable to further identify, had supplied the TATP found in the lock-up and accompanied Botmeh to buy cars at auction. TATP's base ingredients - drain cleaner, bleach and acetone - can be bought easily and without attracting suspicion, and its chemical composition is simple. It is almost undetectable by sniffer dogs or conventional bomb detection systems. TATP was used in the London 7/7 bombings that killed 52 people in 2005.

This post has been edited by Mark Gobell on Jan 4 2011, 12:13 AM
Posted: Jan 7 2011, 06:36 PM

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See the section "Purifying Hydrogen Peroxide"
Posted: Jan 19 2011, 11:27 PM

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Joined: 6-November 06

  July 25,  2005
Volume 83, Number 30
p. 11


Biochemist Arrested In London Bombings
Traces of powerful explosive triacetone triperoxide found in apartment 


user posted image
triacetone triperoxide (TATP)

On July 14, an Egyptian biochemist was arrested in Cairo in connection with the July 7 bombings in London that killed at least 54 people and injured hundreds. Magdy Mahmoud Mustafa el-Nashar, 33, who received a Ph.D. in May, left England weeks before the bombing, and has told Egyptian officials that he had nothing to do with them. But it was in el-Nashar’s rented apartment in Leeds that British officials found quantities of the powerful explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP), more commonly called acetone peroxide.

TATP is made from acetone, hydrogen peroxide, and a mineral acid such as hydrochloric acid, ingredients that are readily available in drug and hardware stores. TATP is so easily synthesized that a recipe for making it has been found in terrorists’ handbooks.

The explosive is one of the most unstable known, and is very sensitive to impact, temperature changes, and friction. But it has some advantages: Besides being easy to make, it can’t be detected by sniffer dogs and is easily smuggled onto airplanes, as the shoe bomber, Richard C. Reid, did in December 2001. Reid's TATP was blended with another explosive, pentaerythritol tetranitrate, a key ingredient in the explosive Semtex.

Until 2003, no sensitive method existed to measure trace amounts of TATP that might be found in residues from explosion or alleged manufacturing sites. In 2003, Rasmus Schulte-Ladbeck, Peter Kolla, and Uwe Karst published a highly sensitive and reproducible method based on high-performance liquid chromatography in Analytical Chemistry (75, 731).

According to El-Nashar’s personal Web page on Leeds University’s chemistry department website—now disabled—he received a B.S. in chemistry and an M.S. in organic chemistry from Cairo University. For his doctoral studies, he was accepted by Egypt’s prestigious National Research Center. In late 1999, the center sponsored him for a winter semester at North Carolina State University, where he studied chemical engineering. In 2000, he transferred to Leeds University, where he focused on biocatalysis and enzyme immobilization on polymeric supports. Leeds University said he earned a doctorate on May 6.
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2005


Trace Analysis of Peroxide-Based Explosives

Rasmus Schulte-Ladbeck,† Peter Kolla,‡ and Uwe Karst*†
Department of Chemical Analysis and MESA+ Research Institute, University of Twente, P.O. Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands, and Bundeskriminalamt, KT 16, 65173 Wiesbaden, Germany
Anal. Chem., 2003, 75 (4), pp 731–735
DOI: 10.1021/ac020392n
Publication Date (Web): January 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003 American Chemical Society


The first method for quantitative trace analysis of peroxide-based explosives is described. A reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography method with postcolumn UV irradiation and fluorescence detection for the analysis of triacetone triperoxide (TATP) and hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD) has been developed. After separation, the analytes are degraded photochemically to hydrogen peroxide, which is subsequently determined on the basis of the peroxidase-catalyzed oxidation of p-hydroxyphenylacetic acid to the fluorescent dimer. This two-step reaction scheme in combination with the respective blanks (photochemical reactor switched off) provides for high selectivity. The limits of detection were 2 × 10-6 mol/L for both TATP and HMTD, respectively. The method has been applied to the analysis of real samples.


Tracing peroxide bombs
[04 March 2003]

The shoe bomber Richard Reid used a peroxide-based explosive in his failed attempt to bring down a passenger airline. This is one of the easiest homemade explosives to make but there are no suitable methods for measuring traces of it. A new method based on high-performance liquid chromatography has been developed to counter its increasing use.

When the famous shoebomb failure Richard Reid smuggled his homemade bomb aboard American Airlines flight 63 from Paris to Miami on December 22, 2001, there was little that security could do to prevent him. The explosive was packed into his shoe but there were no metal components that might trigger the airport metal detectors.

The explosive was triacetone triperoxide (TATP), commonly known as acetone peroxide, one of a group of explosives based on the unstable peroxide group of compounds. TATP is one of the most sensitive explosives known, being extremely sensitive to impact, temperature change and friction. The TATP was blended with a second explosive called pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN), which is also a key ingredient in Semtex.

According to the FBI agent Margaret Cronin, an expert witness on air crime, in a much used quote from her testimony at Reid?s trial, the explosive if placed beside an outer wall could have or would have created a large hole in the fuselage of the plane. Reid was sitting by the window alongside the wing, so that any explosion would have enveloped the fuel carried in the wings.

The delicate nature of TATP might warn off sensible people, but not terrorists. TATP comes with two big advantages. First of all, unlike other types of explosive, it cannot be detected by sniffer dogs, so it is easier to smuggle into airports and onto airplanes. The second advantage is one of the main reasons that this explosive is used at all - it is very easy to synthesise in clandestine labs.

TATP is prepared from three ingredients that are readily available in local stores. All you need are acetone, hydrogen peroxide and any mineral acid (such as hydrochloric acid). The method of manufacture is so well-known that it appears in terrorist cookbooks and on many different sites on the World-Wide Web. Although why innocent people should wish to make the details so readily available is beyond me.

Another peroxide-type explosive is hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD), which is less sensitive than TATP but still dangerous.

Currently, although there are methods to identify these types of explosive, there are no sensitive methods to measure trace amounts. This kind of method is needed for the forensic examination of residues from explosion sites and suspected manufacturing facilities. Now Uwe Karst and Rasmus Schulte-Ladbeck from the Department of Chemical Analysis at the University of Twente in The Netherlands and Peter Kolla from the Bundeskriminalamt in Wiesbaden, Germany have devised such a method.

The technique was reported in Anal. Chem. 2003, 75, 731. In a single run, the solutions of TATP or HMTD were passed through an HPLC column to separate the target compounds from possible interferents. The liquid leaving the column was passed through a tube and irradiated with ultraviolet light to decompose the compounds and form hydrogen peroxide. This flowed on and was reacted with p-hydroxyphenylacetic acid, catalyzed by the enzyme peroxidase, to produce a derivative that was detected by fluorescence spectroscopy. The conversion of hydrogen peroxide to this derivative is an established reaction.

The method proved to be highly sensitive and reproducible, with detection limits in solution of 2 x 10-6 mol/L for both compounds. It was applied to real samples of metal and paper that had been destroyed by explosions of TATP and HTMD, respectively. The results confirmed the viability of the method. At this sensitivity, explosives residues could be detected and measured even when there were no visible signs.

HTMD was found on contaminated debris after two months in cold storage. For TATP, faster analysis was preferred because the compound sublimes quickly even at room temperature (vaporizes directly from the solid, without an intermediate liquid state). Nevertheless, if stored correctly, both compounds can now be detected and measured in real samples from explosion sites.

Article by Steve Down.


the paper is available here


Acetone peroxide (Molecule of the Month for March 2007)

cetone peroxide or commonly called TATP is an organic peroxide and acts as a high explosive. It is highly susceptible to heat, friction, and shock. For its instability, it has been called the "Mother of Satan". Also known as "peroxyacetone", acetone peroxide most commonly refers to the cyclic trimer TCAP (tri-cyclic acetone peroxide, or tri-cyclo), also called triacetone triperoxide (TATP), obtained by a reaction between hydrogen peroxide and acetone in an acid-catalyzed nucleophilic addition. The cyclic dimer (C6H12O4) and open monomer and dimer are also formed, but under proper conditions the cyclic trimer is the primary product.

TCAP generally burns when ignited, unconfined, in quantities less than about 2 grams. More than 2 grams will usually detonate when ignited; smaller quantities might detonate when even slightly confined. Completely dry TCAP is much more prone to detonation than the fresh product still wetted with water or acetone.

Acetone peroxide was used as the explosive in the the July 2005 London bombings. The 7 July 2005 London bombings were a series of coordinated terrorist bomb blasts that hit London's public transport system during the morning rush hour. At 8:50 a.m., three bombs exploded within fifty seconds of each other on three London Underground trains. A fourth bomb exploded on a bus nearly an hour later at 9:47 a.m. in Tavistock Square. The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four suicide bombers, injured 700, and caused a severe day-long disruption of the city's transport and mobile telecommunications infrastructure. On 21 July 2005, four attempted bomb attacks disrupted part of London's public transport system two weeks after the 7 July 2005 London bombings. The explosions occurred around midday at Shepherd's Bush, Warren Street and Oval stations on London Underground, and on a bus in Shoreditch. It has been reported that a fifth bomber dumped his device without attempting to set it off. Richard Reid, who attempted to down American Airlines Flight 63 with a bomb concealed in his shoe, employed a device containing plastic explosive with a TATP trigger.

Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)


Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for March 2007 )

user posted image

click on the picture above to interact
with the 3D model of the
Acetone peroxide structure
(this will open a new browser window)

user posted image

C9 H18 O6


HMTD (Molecule of the Month for April 2008)

Hexamethylene triperoxide diamine, or HMTD is a high explosive organic chemical compound, first synthesised in 1885 by Legler. The theorised structure lent itself well to acting as an initiating, or primary explosive. While still quite sensitive to shock and friction, it was relatively stable compared to other initiating explosives of the time, such as mercury fulminate, and proved to be relatively inexpensive and easy to synthesise. As such, it was quickly taken up as a primary explosive in mining applications.

Despite no longer being used in any official application, it remains a fairly popular home-made explosive and has been used in a large number of suicide bombings throughout the world, and was possibly used in the 7 July 2005 London bombings. It is claimed that it was to be used in the planned explosive in the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot.

Like other organic peroxides such as acetone peroxide, HMTD is an unstable compound that is sensitive to shock, friction, and heat. This makes the substance extremely dangerous to manufacture. It also reacts with most common metals, which can lead to detonation. HMTD is very stable when pure (acid free) and does not quickly sublimate like its acetone counterparts.

Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)


Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for April 2008 )

user posted image

click on the picture above to interact
with the 3D model of the
HMTD structure
(this will open a new browser window)

user posted image

C6 H12 N2 O6

Posted: Feb 2 2011, 09:44 PM

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Last Updated: Monday, 9 July 2007, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK

Bomb would have been 'devastating'
By Chris Summers and Dominic Casciani
BBC News

The bombs that failed to explode in London on 21 July 2005 were almost identical to the ones that killed 52 people on the transport network two weeks earlier. But why didn't they go off?

Investigators spent many hours examining the devices used on 21 July and comparing them with the 7 July bombs.

There was only one minor difference - the 7/7 bombers mixed ground pepper into the mixture while the gang two weeks later used chapatti flour.

But Dr Stuart Black, an explosives expert who gave evidence at the trial, said that was not the reason the devices failed to explode.

The main charge - a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and chapatti flour - was packed into a plastic container stuffed inside a rucksack.

Home-made shrapnel

The would-be bombers - who have been found guilty at Woolwich Crown Court of conspiracy to murder - taped bolts and washers to the outside of the container to act as shrapnel.

The main charge would be set off by a detonator inside a short tube fitted onto a modified light bulb.

To trigger the blast, the bombers simply touched together a battery and a terminal both of which they could hold inconspicuously in their hands.

The electric current passed down two wires, through a slit in their rucksacks and into the modified bulb. The current in the bulb was enough to trigger the detonator - but the main charge did not explode. The question remains why.

Two theories were offered at the trial at Woolwich Crown Court.

The plot's prime mover, Muktar Ibrahim, himself suggested the device would not explode because he had deliberately diluted it with tap water. This was part of his plan, he claimed, to construct bombs that were as realistic as possible, but unable to explode, as part of his "demonstration" against the Iraq war.

But the prosecution offered another view.

Clifford Todd, the chief investigator with the government's Forensic Explosives Laboratory, spent months working out how the bombs on 7/7 and 21/7 were designed.

No-one had ever come across devices with these characteristics before. But when Hussein Osman first claimed that it had been a hoax, it was Mr Todd's job to separate the science from the science fiction.

Hydrogen peroxide is well known among experts as a potential bomb ingredient- but only if used in the correct concentration.

The trial heard that Ibrahim and Yassin Omar spent many hours heating the hair bleach in the New Southgate bomb factory to achieve that concentration - and it is not clear if they succeeded.

But when it came to detonation, the hydrogen peroxide failed to react.

All four bombs simply made a "popping noise" and began leaking onto the floor of the three Tube trains and one bus where they were found.

Clifford Todd's team of scientists took small samples for chemical analysis - but when some of the mixture continued bubbling, experts were forced to destroy the rest amid fears of an explosion.


The scientists at the FEL realised they would need to construct copies of the devices in order to test the hoax theory further - and it took months of carefully planning by a large team to come up with a safe way of trying to do what the bombers did in a council flat.

When it came to detonating the device, the situation was so dangerous that the scientists relied on a remote-controlled robotic device to insert the detonator and initiate the explosion. The device worked.

More importantly, Mr Todd's team established there was no way in the world that Muktar Ibrahim could have known how the devices would have behaved on the day - his claims of a hoax were lies.

Dr Black is in no doubt that the 21 July devices were potentially lethal.

Dr Black said: "Hydrogen peroxide is widely used in explosive devices in Iraq and elsewhere but July 2005 was the first time it was used in the UK. It was definitely a turning point."

"It would have been devastating. The death toll may not have been as high as 7/7 but that is only because the trains were less crowded. The devastation would have been the same. It was very destructive."

DIY bomber

Back in the laboratory, Clifford Todd's team had one last check to make: was it possible that Ibrahim had learnt how to build these bombs from precise instructions in academic, military or scientific journals?

Their research drew a blank - with the team finding no mention at all of this type of device.

Ibrahim himself claimed he had downloaded the instructions from the internet - although in the mass of other documentary evidence nothing was found at his home.

Another theory is that he learnt the skills in a jihadi training camp over the winter of 2004 somewhere in Pakistan.

However he gained the skills, the bombs costs very little to construct - the main cost of £550 being for the hydrogen peroxide.

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