What Is Tannerite? The Chelsea Bomb Remains Had Traces Of The Completely Legal Substance

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19: Members of an FBI Evidence Response Team collect pieces of evidence from the scene of bomb explosion in the Chelsea neighborhood on September 19, 2016 of New York City. Police and military presence was heavy following weekend bombings in New York City and New Jersey. Meanwhile, some 200 world leaders are arriving to New York City for this week's United Nations General Assembly. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Source: John Moore/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Over the weekend, 29 people were injured when a bomb went off in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. After the explosion, investigators found traces of Tannerite amongst the remains, and this naturally had a whole lot of people wondering what Tannerite even is.

Tannerite is a brand-name product that's mostly used for target practice, and it's completely legal. It explodes when struck by a bullet from a high-powered rifle; the purpose is to give shooters a way to determine whether or not they've hit a target at long range. In response to the incident, Tannerite put out a lengthy statement after the bombing, thoroughly disavowing the use of their product for violent purposes.

"The entire staff of Tannerite stands together in the abhorrence and unintended use of all products that are misused for violence and hate," the statement reads. "Tannerite's corporate investigator has been working to determine if indeed our product was factually and positively identified in connection with these acts of violence, at this time we are unable to validate the allegations due to it being an ongoing investigation."

The company noted that Tannerite can only be exploded with a high-velocity rifle shot, and furthermore, that after being detonated, "it vaporizes, as it is an endothermic product."

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The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) classifies Tannerite as a "binary explosive," which means that it comes in two separate pieces that don't become explosive until they're combined.

At this point, it's important to note that, while Tannerite is an explosive, authorities aren't at all sure that it was actually part of the bomb that exploded in Chelsea. In reality, Tannerite doesn't blow up very easily. Steve Yerger, a corporate investigator for Tannerite, told USA Today that the substance can't be detonated with a smoldering fuse, an electronic fuse, an electrical current, or even by an open flame. You can't explode it by hitting it with a hammer, either, and even a low-velocity handgun won't do the trick, according to Yerger.

That's one reason to be skeptical that Tannerite was used in the Chelsea bomb. The other reason is that a separate bomb found in New Jersey over the weekend is also linked to the same bomber, and it did not have any traces of Tannerite.

It may be some time before we know whether or not Tannerite was used in the explosive device in Chelsea, or whether it was just a coincidence. The investigation is ongoing.

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