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Extreme Temperatures Involved in WTC Collapse

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Message Stephen Demetriou

High Temperatures in the WTC collapses


Physicists associated with the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Brigham Young University, the Department of Physics at the University of Iowa, and the University of Maryland at College Park have released a paper examining the evidence for extremely high temperatures, much higher than conventional office building fires, in the World Trade Center collapses. Evidence of extremely high temperatures was found in dust samples that contain once-molten spheres of metals with high melting points, silicates, or glass-like compounds, and evidence of the vaporization of certain metals.

The office material fires described by the government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) study of the WTC collapses indicate air temperatures no higher than 1100C in highly localized areas. As for analysis of the steel from the buildings “…using metallographic analysis, NIST determined that there was no evidence that any of the samples had reached temperatures above 600C.” The temperatures required to form the once-molten spheres found in the dust samples, collected days after the collapses, range from 1000C to 2760C. Iron melts at 1565C, unless in the presence of other compounds under controlled conditions, at which a “eutectic” of iron and sulfur can melt at 1000C. This “eutectic” was discovered by FEMA, and by fire researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and confirmed by this team of physicists and researchers.

The authors write in their Abstract:

“In an effort to better understand the conditions that led to complete collapses of the World Trade Center Towers and WTC 7, we apply scanning-election-microscope (SEM) and energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (XEDS) methods to analyze the dust generated, with an emphasis on observed micro-spheres in the WTC dust. The formation of molten spheres with high iron contents along with other species in the WTC dust required extremely high temperatures. Our results are compared with those of other laboratories. The temperatures required for the molten sphere-formation and evaporation of materials as observed in the WTC dust are significantly higher than temperatures associated with the burning of jet fuel and office materials in the WTC buildings.”

The significance of this work is that it shows office materials ignited by jet fuel could not have been the cause of the particles found. Hydrocarbon fires burn under the most optimum conditions at 1100C, conditions that did not exist in the fires at the towers. MIT Prof. Thomas Eagar wrote in 2001, ““The fire is the most misunderstood part of the WTC collapse. Even today, the media report (and many scientists believe) that the steel melted. This is not true… The temperature of the fires at the WTC was not unusual, and it was most definitely not capable of melting steel… …The maximum flame temperature increase for burning hydrocarbons (jet fuel) in air is, thus, about 1000C – hardly sufficient to melt steel at 1500C.”

“…But is it very difficult to reach this maximum temperature with a diffuse flame. There is nothing to ensure that the fuel and air in a diffuse flame are mixed in the best ratio… This is why the temperatures in a residential fire are usually in the 500 to 650C range. It is known that the WTC fire was a fuel-rich, diffuse flame as evidenced by the copious black smoke.”[1.]


Corroboration of Evidence


            A US Geological Survey study released in 2005, and a study of dust samples by the firm RJ Lee in 2003 both confirmed the presence of iron-rich spheres in the samples they examined. The Lee study also discovered silicates, glass-like compounds, which had a “Swiss cheese appearance as a result of boiling and evaporation.” The temperature required to produce spheres of silicates is roughly 1450C. The temperature needed to vaporize, or boil, a silicate is about 2760C. The Lee study also found evidence of vaporized lead. Vaporization of lead occurs at around 1740C.

One of the more unusual finds came about through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the US Geological Service for data regarding the 2005 results the USGS had published. Not published with the original data are micrographs showing spheres of molybdenum, a metal with a melting temperature of 2623C, over one thousand degrees hotter than that necessary to melt iron. Finding spheres of molybdenum in the dust of the WTC collapses is evidence that temperatures, by some mechanism, may have reached at least 2623C.

Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute also discovered evidence of extremely high temperatures completely unexplained by any of the official studies completed, or underway, to date. Prof. Jonathon Barnett found steel possessing a “Swiss cheese like appearance.” Examining structural steel from WTC 7 he wrote, “A one-inch [steel] column has been reduced to half-inch thickness. Its edges – which are curled like paper scroll – have been thinned to almost razor sharpness. Gaping holes – some larger than a silver dollar – let light shine through a formerly solid steel flange. This Swiss cheese appearance shocked all of the fire-wise professors, who expected to see distortion and bending – but not holes.” [2.]


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Freelance photographer and writer living in Maine.
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