A 20-year-old Saudi national living in Texas is being held by US police on charges of trying to make a homemade bomb and researching targets.
Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, was arrested on Wednesday night and charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
He is accused of eyeing targets including the Dallas home of former president George W Bush.
Mr Aldawsari is due to appear before a federal court on Friday.
Prosecution documents say investigators were tipped off after a supplier became suspicious of an order of toxic chemicals, made by Mr Aldawsari.
They go on to say that the suspect researched the possibility of hiding bombs in children's dolls and backpacks.
The Department of Justice said in a statement that the suspect was arrested "on a federal charge of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction in connection with his alleged purchase of chemicals and equipment necessary to make an improvised explosive device (IED) and his research of potential US targets".
Mr Aldawsari came to the US on a student visa in 2008, and enrolled at South Plains College near Lubbock in Texas.
It is claimed he ordered the toxic chemical phenol, which can be used to make explosives, telling the supplier he wanted it for "off-campus, personal research".
He is alleged to have sent an e-mail to himself on Feb 11, 2011, with a recipe for picric acid, which he desribes as a "military explosive".
The court papers also claim Mr Aldawsari planned to convert a mobile telephone as a remote detonator, and purchased other items to assist with bomb-making, including a gas mask, a soldering iron, glass beakers and a stun gun.
One extract from what is alleged to be Mr Aldawsari's diary says: "And now, after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for Jihad."
It is claimed the suspect had a list of targets to attack in America. As well as George W Bush's Dallas residence, 12 reservoir dams in Colorado and California were on it.
"The charges contained in the criminal complaint are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty," the Justice Department statement added.