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Sci Tech    H2'ed 4/15/09

Was it Nanotech-Thermite or Phasers that took down the WTC?

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A recently published article in an online science journal has come to the conclusion that minute flakes of thermite have been identified in particle samples collected at the site of the World Trade Center collapse.

The article entitled “Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe” was recently published in “The Open Chemical Physics Journal,” which is part of the Bentham Open Science Publishers group of journals.

Researchers from Denmark, the United States and Australia reported that dust samples collected near the collapsed World Trade Center complex contained iron oxide and aluminum flakes whose chemical composition was consistent with unburned thermite.

The researchers used a number of techniques to analyze the chips including scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray energy dispersive spectroscopy (XEDS), and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC).

The researchers used supposed samples of the dust that spread over lower Manhattan after the WTC buildings collapsed. Several samples that had been kept by residents for years as “souvenirs” of the disaster were given to the researchers between 2006 and 2008, many years after the disaster. This raises serious “chain of custody” issues for the evidence which would almost certainly preclude the samples from being used in a court of law. But assuming the samples were valid, there are many more serious issues with the work of this research group.

First, with regard to the idea that this work was published in a “peer reviewed scientific journal”, it should be noted that the Open Chemical Physics Journal is a pay-to-publish online-only journal that has published a total of 12 articles in its history. They have no track record, and no impact factor in the field. In essence, they are a vanity publisher for scientists who can’t get their work published anywhere else. To call them a peer-reviewed science journal is a real stretch.

Before I get into details about why this work is so poorly done, and why the interpretations of the researchers are so suspect, it is important to state that the thermite argument was put forward by these same researchers years ago, and the idea was fully debunked years ago. See for example here: http://www.911myths.com/WTCTHERM.pdf.

The researchers found unusual looking “red/grey chips” that could be collected with magnets in all of the WTC dust samples given to them. One particularly unusual finding in this research article was that the percentage of "red/gray chips" of supposedly "unreacted thermite" amounted to approximately 0.1% of the total mass of the collected dust. Assuming that most of the "thermite" would have burned when set off, and only a fraction remained unreacted, then the amount of 0.1% of the total dust is astounding. It translates to tens or even hundreds of thousands of tons (assuming many millions of tons of building materials total, see page 23, para 3 of the article).

It is no small coincidence that the major components that the researchers detected in the red and grey chips include iron, aluminum, oxygen, silica, and carbon, since these relate to the primary building materials that the WTC was constructed from. The girders were steel, which rusts to iron oxide, the façade was aluminum, and the floors were concrete. The traces of calcium and sulfur could easily be from wallboard (calcium sulfate), as the authors themselves conclude. 

The chips that they analyzed were thin flakes, often only microns thick (a micron is 1/1000 of a millimeter). They all had a grey layer, and a red layer. The grey layers were said to be composed of iron oxide based on the X-ray dispersive spectroscopy, which seems somewhat unusual, since most iron oxide is red in color, not grey (one form of naturally occurring hematite is metallic grey). The red layer of the chips was said to be composed of carbon, with added iron, aluminum, silicon and oxygen, and lesser amounts of sodium, calcium, and potassium. This is not the composition of thermite. 

X-ray dispersive spectroscopy can tell you what elements are in a sample, but not what molecules those elements are incorporated into. Any sample of dust from the WTC collapse would contain similar amounts of these elements because those are the primary elements that made up the steel superstructure, concrete flooring, aluminum facade and other building materials (not to mention the aluminum fuselage of the aircraft).

There is no thermite product on earth that is made up of thin sheets of grey layers of iron oxide and red layers of carbon with iron and aluminum oxides. In fact, to burn at high temperatures, thermite must contain large amounts of unoxidized aluminum, rather than aluminum oxide. The researchers did not determine if the aluminum present in their samples was oxidized aluminum, or unoxidized aluminum. The researchers get around the fact that their samples did not look like thermite under the microscope by suggesting that is was a form of "nanotechnology enhanced super-thermite". How could there have been tens of thousands of tons of "nanotechnology enhanced super-thermite" in these buildings? 

The researchers also showed that the chips could be ignited, and that they burned at a lower temperature than normal thermite. This is of course not surprising since metals such as aluminum do burn if they are complexed with oxidizing agents, and are heated enough. Rust is an oxidizing agent if heated high enough, and is the oxidizing constituent of many types of thermite.

It is also important to note that thermite is not explosive, and it is difficult to ignite. It also often burns relatively slowly, and not uniformly, making it a very poor choice for building demolition. In building demolition, you need high explosive cutting charges that usually are carefully placed in holes drilled deep into the structures to be severed. Putting a thin coat of thermite onto a structural element, as suggested by the fact that all of the red/grey chips found in the dust samples were very thin flakes, would not result in the reliable cutting of support structures that would be required to bring the WTC down.

It is also interesting that when the red layer of the chips was analyzed by backscattered electron imaging, that the signals for iron and oxygen did not overlap well. If the material was thermite, the iron would be present almost exclusively as iron oxide, and the images for the iron atoms and oxygen atoms should have overlapped very well.

The two things that most Americans can agree on about 9/11 is that the official story is not credible, and that the Bush administration was hiding something. But that’s where agreement ends. Some people believe that explosive cutting charges were planted in the buildings, and detonated in sequence to bring the buildings down in their own footprints. Others believe that nanotechnology enhanced thermite was packed into the buildings, and that it was ignited to weaken the structures until they fell. Still others, like Dr. Judy Wood, believe that the US used directed energy weapons to destabilize the molecular structure of the buildings, thus causing them to collapse into atomic dust.

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John R. Moffett PhD is a research neuroscientist in the Washington, DC area. Dr. Moffett's main area of research focuses on the brain metabolite N-acetylaspartate, and an associated genetic disorder known as Canavan disease.

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