A pipe bomb is an improvised explosive device which uses a tightly sealed section of pipe filled with an explosive material. The containment provided by the pipe means that simple low explosives can be used to produce a relatively large explosion due to the containment causing increased pressure, and the fragmentation of the pipe itself creates potentially lethal shrapnel.
In Breaking Bad, Walter White utilizes Hector Salamanca's desire for revenge against Gustavo Fring, implanting a pipe bomb under his wheelchair, with Gus, Hector, and Tyrus Kitt exploding to death during the showdown.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Breaking Bad
- 1.1.1 Season 4
- 1.1 Breaking Bad
- 2 Design
- 3 Operation
Walt builds the pipe bomb in his kitchen and even tested it to see if it works. Later, he hides it in Gus' car to kill him and his subsequent henchmen, however the plan fails when Gus realizes something is amiss and doesn't get into the car. ("End Times")
After Walt's car bombing plan fails, Walt pays a hefty bribe to Saul's secretary Francesca to get in touch with Saul, and with Jesse's help they realize that Gus may be vulnerable if he visits Hector Salamanca at the nursing home Casa Tranquila, where Gus has gone in the past to torment Hector about the deaths of his family members. Walt visits Hector and offers him a chance for revenge against Fring: "I know that you despise me, but I'll bet that I know someone you hate even more." Hector then requests a meeting at the DEA office, but tells them nothing; he only crudely insults Hank. Tyrus has been tailing Hank and sees Hector leave the DEA office, and informs Gus. Tyrus visits Hector's room and sweeps it for any bugs; he informs Gus that it's clean. Gus arrives and berates Hector for speaking to the DEA, calling him a "crippled rata" and prepares to kill him. Hector finally looks him in the eye and then rings his bell, detonating a bomb that he has allowed Walt to plant in his wheelchair. The door is blown off its hinges and Gus walks out into the hall and straightens his tie - the entire right side of his face having been blown off - before dropping dead. ("Face Off")
The bomb is usually a short section of steel water pipe containing the explosive mixture and closed at both ends with steel or brass caps. A fuse is inserted into the pipe with a lead running out through a hole in the side or capped end of the pipe. The fuse can be electric, with wires leading to a timer and battery, or can be a common fuse. All of the components are easily obtainable.
Generally, high explosives such as TNT are not used, because these and the detonators that they require are difficult for non-state users to obtain. Such explosives also do not require the containment of a pipe bomb.
Instead, any sort of explosive mixture the builder can find or make is used. Some of the explosive mixtures used, such as gunpowder, match heads, or chlorate mixtures, are very prone to ignition by the friction and static electricity generated when packing the material inside the tube or attaching the end caps, causing many injuries or deaths amongst builders. Sharp objects such as nails or broken glass are sometimes added to the outer shell, or inside of, the bomb to increase potential injury and damage,best demonstrated when half of Gus Fring's face is almost completely blown up.
Pipe bombs concentrate pressure and release it suddenly, through the failure of the outer casing. Plastic materials can be used, but metals typically have a much higher bursting strength and so will produce more concussive force. For example, common schedule 40 1-inch (25mm) wrought steel pipe has a typical working pressure of 1,010 psi (7.0 MPa), and bursting pressure of 8,090 psi (55.8 MPa), though the pipe sealing method can significantly reduce the burst pressure.
The pipe can rupture in different ways, depending on the rate of pressure rise and the ductility of the casing material.
- If the pressure rise is slow, the metal can deform until the walls become thin and a hole is formed, causing a loud report from the gas release, but no shrapnel.
- A rapid rate of pressure rise will cause the metal to shatter into fragments, which are pushed outward in all directions by the expanding gases.