Saturday, September 11, 2010

A 9/11 Truth: Evidence of Energetic Materials in the Debris of the Collapsed World Trade Center Towers

Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) remote sensing data (left and upper right) show the distribution and intensity of thermal hot spots (warm colors) in the area of World Trade Center (WTC) five days after 9/11/01.  The red-dashed rectangle overlaid on the pre-9/11 satellite photograph of the WTC towers at the lower right corresponds to the white- dashed rectangles on the AVRIS images.

Inspired by David Ray Griffin’s recent web publication “Left-Leaning Despisers of the 9/11 Truth Movement: Do You Really Believe in Miracles?” (selected parts of which can be found in my previous post) I will discuss below the results of two superb scientific investigations found in the open literature:

I. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) report of flyovers of the site of the World Trade Center (WTC) five and twelve days after the 9/11/01 attacks to record Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) remote sensing data (see figure above).

AVIRIS is a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) remote sensing instrument that measures upwelling spectral radiance in the visible through the infrared, specifically, for wavelengths from 0.37 to 2.5 micrometers. In response to requests from the EPA through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), NASA flew AVIRIS on a small aircraft over lower Manhattan at mid-day on Sept. 16 and again in Sept. 23, 2001. Only the Sept. 16th results are shown in the figure above. These are false-color images, wherein the orange and yellow areas represent hot spots on the surface of the WTC debris (and the dark areas that are not water are shadows).

By use of the spectral data for the entire range of wavelengths, the USGS data analysis team was able to correct for reflected sunlight – and also determine the temperatures and sizes of hot objects smaller than the size of the pixels, which are about 6 by 6 feet. I have placed at the bottom of the figure a table of their results for hotspots A through H in degrees Centigrade.

The lower right panel of the figure is a satellite photo of the WTC taken sometime before 9/11/01, which I appended here so that the hot spots can be understood in relation to the original locations of WTC towers 1, 2, and 7. Since this picture was taken from slightly south of directly overhead, whereas the AVIRIS views were looking straight downward, comparison of the two would be difficult without a common reference frame, which I have provided here as the dashed white and red rectangles. The white rectangles mark a recognizable zone in the AVIRIS images and, for easier recognition, a red rectangle is used to highlight the exact same area on the satellite photo. In all cases, the insides these of these rectangles at the lower right corner correspond precisely the southwest and southeast walls of the prominent 1 Liberty Plaza Building seen there. By contrast, I selected the outsides of the northeast sides of these rectangles to just touch the southwest-facing fronts of the buildings across the street to the northeast of WTC 7 (labeled in red on the lower-right photo). I captured an outline of WTC 7’s asymmetric trapezoidal roof plan in this photo and then transplanted it to the upper-right AVIRIS image, where I shifted it to match WTC 7’s original footprint when viewed directly from above.

It becomes immediately obvious that the AVIRIS-determined hot spots are not only clustered around the bases of WTC 1 and WTC 2 Twin Towers, which were hit by airplanes, but also inside the footprint of WTC 7, which was not hit by an airplane, but nevertheless fell at free-fall speed for 2.5 seconds (see video) onto its own footprint late in the afternoon of 9/11/01.

One might be tempted to believe that the hot spots revealed by AVIRIS on 9/16/01 represent burning office materials. However, no identifiable fragments of office furniture were seen in the dust, only sheets of unburned paper. Nor were any macroscopic pieces of concrete found there. Each of the Twin Towers comprised about 400,000 cubic yards of concrete and about 200,000 pounds of flammables. Both the concrete and the flammables were turned to dust – as were the vast majority of human remains, some of which were found in 2006 as tiny bone splinters on the roof of the 43-story Deutsche Bank Building about 400 feet to the south of the location of the former South Tower (seen partially obscuring the red-dashed line at the bottom center of the satellite photo).

Assuming the flammables to have been 100% wooden furniture, there would have been about 250 cubic yards of sawdust blended with those 400,000 cubic yards of pulverized concrete. Just how vigorously do you expect this 1600-to-one-diluted sawdust would burn? And even wood fire in your well-ventilated fireplace would burn out in about 5 hours if you don’t add more logs.

Nevertheless, not only was something near the surface of the WTC dust still burning after 5 days, but some of those fires were exceeding the melting temperature of aluminum (660 degrees C) -- something that rarely happens in your fireplace.

These near surface fires were mostly extinguished a week later, when the second AVIRIS pass found the remotely detectable hot spots to have disappeared.

Nevertheless, deeper down into the dust something continued burning for six months, resulting in ground temperatures varying between 316 and 816 C. And frequent spraying with water and special fire-fighting foams seemed to have no effect, making it “the longest-burning structural fire in history.”

What kind of material could continue to burn without a ready supply of oxygen? And what kind of material could continue burning even when doused with water?

The answer to both of these questions is thermite.

II. The 2009 publication in The Open Chemical Physics Journal (TOCPJ) of a fabulous paper by Harrit et al. entitled “Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe

Some disparagers of the 9/11 Truth movement have alleged that TOCPJ is a place on the web where anybody can buy a publication without peer review.

Absolutely false!

I know this because I was one of the referees of the Harrit et al. paper. The editors asked for my opinion. And after about two weeks of studying what the authors had written, checking relevant references, and gathering my thoughts, I finally provided my advice to authors in 12 single-spaced pages, together with my recommendation to the Editors that they publish the paper after the authors had considered my suggestions.

Still, some skeptical readers may ask how anyone can rate a scientific paper as “fabulous.” Well, I am the principal author of 109 papers (and a co-author of an additional 81) in peer-review journals. And have refereed a least 600, and possibly as many as 1000, manuscripts. So you would be right in calling me an aficionado of articles published in scientific journals. And I found absolutely nothing to criticize in the final version of the Harrit et al. paper! Apropos, twelve of my own publications have appeared in the American Institute of Physics’ Journal of Chemical Physics (an old fashioned paper journal), so it is accurate to say that chemical physics (of inorganic materials) is my main specialty.

Harrit et al. (2009) report extensive materials-science investigations of “red/gray chips” originally discovered by co-author Prof. Steven Jones in samples of dust produced by the destruction of the World Trade Center. Specifically, they examined red/gray chips from four separate sites in lower Manhattan, collected just 10 minutes, one day, one day, and one week after the collapse of WTC 1, each one uncontaminated by clean-up operations which began later. Their experimental methods included optical microscopy (see photomicrographs below), scanning electron microscopy (SEM; see images below the photomicrographs), X-ray energy dispersive spectroscopy (XEDS) to determine elemental compositions, and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). By these means they determined the red material to contain (1) faceted grains consistently 100 nm (0.1 micrometer) in size which are largely ferric-iron oxide, (2) metallic aluminum in the form of platelets approximately 40 nm thick and about 1 micrometer broad, and (3) a binder matrix consisting of silicon dioxide and some sort of organic material.

Figure 2 of Harrit et al. (2009): Photomicrographs of red/gray chips from four different samples of the WTC dust.  The inset in (d) shows the same chip edge on, revealing the gray layer.  The 100 micrometer scale bars are 0.1 millimeters (mm) long.
Figure 4 of Harrit et al. (2009): Backscattered-electron electron-microscope images of the same four samples as shown in Fig. 2 of Harrit et al. (2009).  Note the 10 to 100 times greater magnifications.  Images (b) and (d) are edge-on, revealing planar contacts of the red layer (top) with the gray layer (bottom).  Note too that the red layer comprises a heterogeneous collection of small particles in a matrix, while the gray layer (appearing white in this measurement) is highly homogeneous.  Particles in the red layer were found to include metallic aluminum and iron oxide; the gray layer was pure iron oxide.

The combination of powdered metallic aluminum with iron oxide powder is the classic recipe for thermite. When ignited, the aluminum in thermite is oxidized while the iron oxide is reduced to (molten) metallic iron:

2Al + Fe2O3 --> Al2O3 + 2Fe (molten iron), ΔH = - 853.5 kJ/mole.

Harrit et al. also reported that small spheroidal particles of metallic iron and of iron-rich glass are relatively common in the WTC dust. And they were able to manufacture similar spheroids in the laboratory by igniting some of their red/gray chips.

The energy release (ΔH =-853.5 kJ/mole) is about the same as that for burning pure carbon in pure oxygen. But the big difference is that in the case of thermite, no gaseous oxygen at all is required for the thermite reaction. Thermite can burn and release this amount of energy in a vacuum, under water ...or even buried deeply in non-inflammable dust. All it needs is a heat source to ignite it.

Commercial thermite is quite hard to ignite, generally requiring temperatures in excess of 900 C to initiate the reaction (which is then self-sustaining). But with intimately mixed nano-particles (100 nm or less) of Fe2O3 and metallic Al, the situation is different.

Harrit et al.’s differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) results show us just how different.

In the DSC experiment, the temperature of the sample is raised at a constant rate, while the heat intake or (as in the present case) output of the sample is constantly monitored. The DSC graph from Harrit et al. shown below is a comparison between a typical red/gray chip (blue curve, which was shown elsewhere in the paper to be similar to the results for red/gray chips from the other three sites) and an experimental nano-thermite using 25-nm aluminum particles (red curve) published by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists Tillotson et al. in the June 2001 issue of the Journal of Non-Crystalline Solids (a journal where I happen to have published 41 papers and have 2 more pending).

Figure 29 of Harrit et al. (2009): Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC) trace of a sample of WTC 9/11 dust (blue line) compared with the DSC of an iron-oxide/ultra-fine-grain-aluminum nanocomposite (red line) taken from the work of Tillotson et al. (2001).

From the graph above we learn three important things: (i) the red layer of the red/gray chips can be considered to be a form of nano-thermite, (ii) this form ignites at low temperatures (420 to 450 °C) relative to commercial thermite (>900 C), and (iii) nano-thermites with slightly higher ignition temperatures were actually developed in the course of government-sponsored research that took place well before the 9/11/01 attacks.

And look at the graph below! Here we see that red/gray chips from WTC dust samples #3 and #4 are more energetic per unit mass than three common explosives and one experimental Al/Fe2O3 nano-composite reported in the scientific literature in 2004!

Figure 30 of Harrit et al. (2009): Energy release for monomolecular explosives HMX, TNT and TATB, and for a energetic composite Al/Fe2O3 reported by Gash et al. (2004) compared with four red/gray chips found in the WTC dust and measured by DSC. Red bars = energy release per unit volume; blue bars = energy release per unit mass. Note that WTC chips 3 and 4 are the champions on the per-unit-mass basis.

Note that two of the eight hot spots reported by the USGS in the figures at the beginning of this post fall within the ignition range (420 to 450 °C) of the red/gray chips endemic to the WTC dust and the rest correspond to higher temperatures up to 747 °C. Indeed, burning thermite can reach temperatures of the order of 2500 °C. That temperatures this high were not picked up by AVIRUS can be attributed to the insulating properties of the cement dust that interred the vast majority of these energetic chips.

Nuclear reactors normally operate at temperatures in the range 300 to 1,000 C, while natural-gas-burning turbines typically burn their fuel in the range 320 to 500 C. Both are operated for the purpose of generating electricity.

So, if the six months or so of heat generation in these temperature ranges within the WTC ruins could have been fed into an electric generator it might well have lit up all of lower Manhattan for most of this time. Since no radioactivity was ever detected at the WTC site, we can be sure it wasn’t fissionable material making all that heat. Therefore, it had to have been chemical energy -- chemical energy that can be released without a source of oxygen. By process of elimination, this chemical energy has to have been stored in the thermitic red/gray chips that Harrit el al. (2008) estimate make up as much as 0.1% by weight of the WTC dust. If the amount of dust in and near the footprints of the three WTC towers was, say, 100,000 cubic meters of powdered concrete at 2000 kilograms/cubic meter, it would then have contained as much as 200,000 kilograms of red/gray chips. And if I did the calculation right, burning all of it (at 4kJ/gram) to power a 50% efficient steam turbine could have provided 100,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

These energetic red/gray chips are clearly the remnants of exotic nano-thermites evolved from U.S. Government sponsored research, mass produced somewhere in the years before 9/11, and fitted into the Twin Towers in the weeks or months before the 9/11 attacks, together with other specialized explosives and a meticulously designed detonation sequence to make the demolitions begin near the impact points of the equally well devised and guided pair of drone airliners which, according to my hypothesis, switched places with Flights AA-11 and AU-175.

If you are wondering how the perps could have gotten all of those explosives into the WTC towers without arousing suspicion, here’s a very plausible scenario.

The red/gray chips in the WTC 9/11 dust are “the smoking gun,” literally and figuratively.

But if anyone feels the need for more smoking guns, they can be found here.


ken said...

I think you have the Greatest Story Never Told here. I know there are all sorts of websites like Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth and so forth, but by "telling the story" I mean reaching the general public. Jim Hoffman's hypothetical scenario makes sense. Having worked as a contractor in office buildings, no one questions anyone and maintenance workers have free access everywhere. They are invisible. The only thing that would strengthen Jim's scenario would be if WTC office workers who were not there on 9/11 -- such as on vacation or sick day -- could confirm they recalled new ceiling tiles having been installed in their office. Of course it is not a very memorable thing and if replaced at night, most office workers would not even notice new ceiling tiles.

Your explanation of the thermite and the six month underground fires makes an incontrovertible and easy-to-understand story. So long as you and others can be dismissed as conspiracy theorists, you are safe. Once you got to where there was a chance you would actually convince the general public you would be at risk. But if you were so brave and foolhardy, you and Jim Hoffman could approach Michael Moore to film and tell The Greatest Story Never Told. There is no statute of limitations on murder investigations or trials or for reparations.

éminence grise said...


I remember reading somewhere that the WTC was closed for several days, in at least one case due to the power being shut off, in the weeks before 9/11, but I haven't marked the link. So much of the work emplacing explosives other than the ceiling tiles could have been done then. Maybe you could try to do a search to retrieve this info.

Otherwise, I just modified my discussion near the end by calculating how much electric power might have been generated by controlled burning of all those red/gray chips.

Anonymous said...


This is all very interesting stuff. The thing I'm fascinated by as well is the following:

How could those 1000's and 1000's of ordinary paper sheets have survived between all this stuff that was turned to dust? Paper is relatively fragile, compared to officefurniture, concrete and even human bodies, so how can it be that all that paper survived those very high temperatures, and didn't burn to ashes? I haven't seen any scientist address this little mystery, which doesn't have any consequences for the outcome that active thermitic materials were present, but I just think is very counterintuitive, to assume that paper would survive this onslaught, while everything else (except most of the steel of course) was reduced to some powderlike substance.
Since you're a chemist, I'd like to see your thoughts on this.
And thanks for your support against the official comicbook story.


éminence grise said...

Hey, Sander!

Thank you for this excellent question. I am confident that the answer has to do with the fact that the most important damage done by the explosives was not thermal but due to the shock waves they created. Shock-wave physics (I'm a physicist by the way) was not part of my education, but I taught myself a lot since I've become involved in a geological imbroglio regarding the Chesapeake Bay impact crater:

Shock waves pass through materials faster than the speed of sound in those materials. They begin as pressure waves, but when they reach a free surface of a stiff material, they reflect backwards into that material as tensile waves that literally pulverize the material. Apparently, that works well with steel, since an anti-tank munition known as HESH flattens a wad of plastic explosive against the struck tank before detonating it. This results in the creation of a reasonably planar shock wave propagating through the armor, which upon reaching the inner surface spalls it into hyper velocity "buck shot," which instantly kills the crew. So, long story short, I suppose that paper is just too thin and too floppy to support a shock wave and thus was spared spallation damage when WTC towers were blown up.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

Nice to see a response, thanks for that. In addition to all that paper surviving, I suppose that all the concrete that was pulverized and blown outwards was caused then by this same mechanism of shockwaves? I used to think (without any more background in physics & chemistry than highschool) that this massive pulverization could've been caused by the extreme high temperatures that were present during the systematic destruction. Since concrete is made of gravel, sand and cement all added to water, I figured that the extreme temperatures would've turned the water present in the concrete to vaper, thereby completely disaccociating the concrete. But now, after reading your answer, I presume that first the shock- and tensile kicked in, followed by blastwaves which blew all the stuff outward.
But u mentioned that these shock- and tensile waves also can pulverize steel. But does it work for furniture as well? And how about human bodies? As you know, almost a 1000 people's bodies were never recovered, they just vanished into nothing. Could this be more likely due to the extreme high temperatures, or something else?
Anyway, I find it great to see such a knowledgeable person being engaged in all these issues. Like your website very much.


Anonymous said...

I, too, am very interested in what happened to the bodies. And the apparent disinterest in the third of the victims with no remains whatsoever and the another third that were literally blown into hundred of pieces is quite mind boggling. I thought we were all TV "CSI experts" and interested in such thing!?

You mention only briefly the iron spheres found throughout the dust and reported RJ Lee's morphology paper - surely this could only have been formed (consistently) from explosives and completely corroborates Harrit's paper. Yet again there is complete silence from the official story side to explain any of molten metal stories, the iron spheres in the dust or the victim forensics.

How would you suggest that these glaring errors in the official story become more widely known and discussed?

nogod said...

It is interesting that you are using non scientific analysis put together by a politically motivated group as your references. Which says a lot about yourself and your motives. IMHO

I wouldnt care but...
Opinions and theories should be kept separately from proven facts. One would think that you would know that.

Mike Cook said...

Thank you so much for stepping forward, Dave! I know this is a very late expression of appreciation, but I was aware and delighted about your speaking out from the beginning, and never bothered to read the comments before. I certainly hope your stance hasn't brought you any ill winds. Most are too scared to speak out. Most of the time, when someone does speak out, nothing untoward happens. This is an excellent job and I've circulated it widely. I'm a rock climber and amateur geologist and I hope we can meet some day. The University of Arizona in Tucson is my alma mater and I hope you enjoyed your time there and got to see the Grand Canyon. I especially hope you got to see the Grand Canyon... I've done three river trips down it, and I consider myself very blessed. Arizona is wonderful for geology.


David L Griscom said...

My Reply to Anonymous (1) [Sander]

Shock waves travel faster than the speed of sound in the medium in which the propagate, which can be a solid, liquid, or gas.

One quirk about them that I never would have known had it not been for my interest in impact geology, is that when a pressure wave strikes a free surface and begins to return as a tensile wave, part of the material nearest the free surface is expelled at TWICE the speed of the shock wave. This is the origin of the "blastwaves" that blow things outward. So, yes, this can happen to furniture and human bodies (thus accounting for the bone chips found on roofs blocks away.)


David L Griscom said...

My Reply to Anoymous (2)

First see my answer to Sander, above.

Second, you are right that making iron so molten as to form spheres when blasted into free space requires temperatures far higher than found in building fires.

Yes, the iron spheroids are never mentioned in the "mainstream" media because their owners make more money by promoting the "war on terror," which also allows them to do away with our constitutional rights in order to "protect us" from domestic "terrorism" of the sort that the founding fathers waged against their British overlords.

David Ray Griffin has done the best job of collecting and exposing the glaring errors in the "official" 9/11 conspiracy theory, but unfortunately not very many will read his many volumes. We can only advertise these things in our blogs and fight off the evil trolls (see next).


David L Griscom said...

My Reply to nogod

In my 600 to 1000 referee reports on papers submitted to reputable scientific journals, I have never once, even with the very worst papers, said the author was "using non scientific analysis" or any such non specific language. Instead, I've always explained in non-insulting terms the author's scientific errors and how they might conceivably be fixed. Nor have I ever refereed a paper that I thought was politically motivated.

As for you, nogod, you seem to be trashing my peer reviewed references as politically motivated without a shred of evidence that you have read and understood any of them, or the slightest clue that you are even faintly scientifically literate.

This says a whole lot about yourself and your motives, IMHO.

David L Griscom said...

My Reply to Mike Cook,

Hi Mike,

Thanks for you kind words.

I too am an amateur geologist. See:
And I too hope we can meet someday.