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Thermite found in the dust from the World Trade Center


Thermite (explosive) has been found in the dust and steel debris0.


The claim stems from a video clip by the World Trade Center 2 shortly before the building collapses. Glowing material can be seen coming out of the building. This was quickly seen by conspiracy theorists led by physicist Steven Jones as a result of ignited thermite. It was claimed that the material was melted iron/steel.

Since conspiracy theorists could not prove that the material was the result of a thermite reaction, and there was no indication anywhere that this was the case, they turned to the dust from the collapsing buildings.

Steven Jones collected four samples from various sites on Manhattan and announced in 2007 that he would have them tested independently. It is possible that a couple of independent tests were carried out, but in that case Jones has never made the results available to the public. Instead, he went on to test the samples himself together with the Danish retired chemistry professor Niels Harrit and others. This led to an article which was published in April 2009, in Bentham Open Journal, which is owned by Bentham Science Publishers, whose headquarters are in the United Arab Emirates. The title of the article was “Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe”.

The article does not conclude the presence of either explosives or nanothermite. However, the article has been used by Jones, Harrit, and a long list of other conspiracy theorists to publically claim that enormous amounts of nanothermite were found. The article also points to the nanothermite being produced by the American military. Thus, the authors of the article claim that the terror attack on September 11, 2001, was an inside job.


There is no evidence of nanothermite or any type of explosives found in the dust from the World Trade Center 1, 2, or 7.

Investigation by the U.S. Geological Survey

Immediately after September 11, 2001, the authorities began investigating the impact of the terror attack. Along with the enormous rescue and cleanup work, a number of samples were taken from the ruins of the World Trade Center to among other things to investigate the dust after the collapses and destruction of all seven buildings. This was done by the U.S. Geological Survey, an independent scientific research bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior1.

On September 17 and 18, 2001, 35 samples within a radius of 1,000 meters of the World Trade Center were taken. Two of the samples were taken indoors and two from a steel section from the World Trade Center. The results were made public on November 27, 20012, 3, 4.

The dust contained materials commonly used in buildings, office equipment, and similar:

  • Glass fiber particles (silicon, aluminum, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and other elements)
  • Gypsum (calcium and sulphates)
  • Concrete (calcium, aluminum hydroxides, and a number of silicon minerals)
  • Paper
  • Metals (iron, aluminum, titanium, a.o.)
  • Organic carbon (paper and other organic materials)
  • Other materials

A number of trace elements of metal from the two steel samples that in all probability have other sources:

  • Paint (titanium, molybdenum, lead, and iron)
  • Wires, pipes, computer equipment (copper)

The results did not arouse suspicion of explosives.

Investigation by Steven Jones, Niels Harrit et al.

In the article “Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe”, it is clear that pseudoscientific methods are being used. One example from page 23:

1. How Much of the Energetic Red Material Survived During the WTC Destruction?

In the sample provided by collector J. MacKinlay the fraction of red/gray chips was roughly estimated. Fifteen small chips having a total mass of 1.74 mg were extracted from a 1.6 g sample of dust from which readily identifiable glass and concrete fragments had been removed by hand. Thus the fraction of red/gray chips was approximately 0.1% by weight in the separated dust. Another sampling showed 69 small red/gray chips in a 4.9 g sample of separated dust. Further samples are being analyzed to refine this estimate. The fall of the WTC Towers produced enormous clouds of dust whole metal mass is difficult to ascertain; but clearly the total mass of red/gray chips in the WTC dust must be substantial given the fraction observed in these samplings.0

A microscopic sample was taken from some dust, after which 99.9% was discarded in advance, and the result extrapolated to make up a “substantial” part of the combined mass of the ruins of the World Trade Center.

The same could be done after the Copenhagen Carnival had finished: Bend down, pick up four handfuls of garbage, remove paper, glass, and other dirt, find 15 microscoping pieces of something you claim is gold-like substances with a combined weight of 1,74 mg and conclude that the streets of Copenhagen is paved with pure gold.

Another example is the conclusion that the energy level in two of the four used samples far from reach the levels of conventional explosives such as TNT or HMX:

One of those samples is the very same sample (from MacKinlay) as in the above was claimed to be the scientific evidence of the presence of these red/grey pieces of nanothermite.

The result of the claimed presence of the nanothermite in the World Trade Center would be the melting of the steel. Steel melts at different temperatures depending on the alloys. In their investigation, NIST is calculating with a temperature of around 1,600 C. It turns out that MacKinlay’s sample has nowhere nearly enough energy to melt steel (which should be a result of the nanothermite):

Despite this, the conspiracy theorists conclude, partly based on cherry-picked videos of something that could look like melted steel flowing from the World Trade Center 2, and partly based on the article in Bentham Open Journal, that there were many tons of nanothermite placed in the World Trade Center 1, 2, and 7.

Mounting problems


There are serious problems with the whole investigation:

  • The samples have been collected in a fashion that raises doubt about authenticity and purity. The first samples emerge more than five years after the terror attack on September 11, 2001, namely in October, 2006. We know nothing about how the samples have been stored.
  • At least two of the four persons storing the dust before it was handed over to Steven Jones were confirmed conspiracy theorists, who already were convinced that the official account was false and that the New World Order was really behind the attack.
  • At least one of the dust samples are contaminated: Janet MacKinlay used the dust from her apartment close to the World Trade Center for a work of art, where the dust was mixed with other materials of unknown origins.

The content and conclusion of the article

  • There is no positive identification of nanothermite in the article. The conclusion is based on the assumption that it cannot be other substances, despite the fact that the composition of the nanothermite ostensibly used to blow up the World Trade Center 1, 2, and 7 is unknown.
  • The chemical composition of the four dust samples vary considerably. This is demonstrated in the levels of released energy from each sample which deviate with several hundred percent. Two of the samples release far more energy than is theoretically possible for nanothermite, while the remaining two samples release lower levels. This is relevant, given that Niels Harrit claims that the nanothermite can only come from military labs.
  • There have not been published anything with control measurements of the available dust samples.
  • Niels Harrit claims that such a control measurement exists, but he has refused to make the result public.
  • Nobody has replicated the experiment and come to the same result.
  • Steven Jones and Niels Harrit must be considered highly biased, given that they are both conspiracy theorists.


  • It is doubtful if the article has been peer reviewed, approved by independent competent experts.
  • Bentham Open Chemical Physics Journal is a publication where you pay to have your articles published as opposed to publications like Nature, Science, The Lancet, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Proceedings of the Royal Society, none of which accept payment from the scientists whose articles are being reviewed.
  • Niels Harrit, Steven Jones and the other authors went straight to pay-for-publication instead of submitting the article to the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the obvious choice.
  • Marie-Paule Pileni, editor in chief and professor specializing in nanomaterials at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in France, was not aware of the article before it was publicized. She immediately resigned in protest when she learned of the publication5:

    A phone call reveals that editor in chief Marie-Paule Pileni was never informed that the article would be published in The Open Chemical Physics Journal, which is published by the magazine behemoth Bentham Science Publishers.

    »They have published that article without my authorization so when you wrote me, I had no knowledge that the article was published. I cannot accept this, so I have written to Bentham that I withdraw from all activities at their company,« says Marie-Paule Pileni, who is a professor specializing in nanomaterials at the renowned Université Pierre et Marie Curie in France.

  • The politically charged linking of the New World Order with the terror attack on September 11, 2001, has been harshly criticized, by Marie-Paule Pileni among others, as unscientific:

    »I cannot accept that this subject is published in my journal. This article is not at all about physical chemistry or chemical physics and I could easily believe there is a political point of view behind the publication. If anyone had asked me, I would tell them that the article should never have been published in this journal. End of story,« states the former editor in chief.

  • The Open Chemical Physics Journal is not quoted in other articles published in other scientific publications. This means that the publication is not respected in scientific circles6.
  • Peer reviewing is a crucial part of the scientific process, but the process can be compromised by paying for the peer reviewing and when the authors know those who review the articles. It is only when independent studies have confirmed the findings that one can talk about scientific evidence. This has not happened, despite Niels Harrit’s claim that such a study exists.

Did Mark Basile repeat the experiment?

In October 2010, there were rumors that a chemistry engineer by the name of Mark Basile had repeated the experiement using dust samples from the World Trade Center and reached the same conclusion as Harrit, Jones et al.

Basile has yet to publish anything in written form and nothing points to it ever happening. Instead he has given interviews of which some can be found on YouTube.

There are additional serious problems with Basile’s experiment:

  • The number of examined samples has been halved, from 4 to 2
  • One of the samples used has also been used in the Jones/Harrit experiment and comes from Janette MacKinlay.
    • Unknown provenance.
    • Confirmed contamination.
    • Lower energy level than conventional explosives.
  • The other sample comes from an anonymous source.
    • Unknown source.
    • Unknown provenance.
    • Unknown energy level.
    • Unknown chemical composition.

The standard is thus lowered considerably in the follow-up experiment by accepting the use of anonymous sources and by disregarding altogether the demand for publication in peer reviewed journals.

Despite this is Basile’s experiment considered scientifically in order by the conspiracy theorists, and they think that the claim of nanothermite being found in the dust from the World Trade Center has been scientifically confirmed.

This is quite insufficient and can in no way be regarded as a scientific result. One cannot merely tell about a scientific discovery without also publishing in a recognized scientific journal, but only do interviews conducted by primarily conspiracy theorist groups.

This approach is reminiscent of the infamous “cold fusion” case, where two scientists publicized a ground-breaking discovery, namely a method to recreate the physical processes that happen inside the Sun. This would have resulted in eliminating the energy consumption needs for the entire world in all eternity. The two scientists, Pons and Fleischmann, claimed that they had recreated the processes in an ordinary laboratory quite without the huge technological steps physicists elsewhere considered necessary. Pons and Fleischmann avoided publicizing their discovery in a recognized scientific journal, but instead, they chose to hold a press conference. It turned out later that their discovery was a hoax7.

It should also be mentioned that Mark Basile shortly after the terror attack on September 11, 2001, became convinced that the New World Order was behind the attack. Thus, he cannot be considered an unbiased source, along with Niels Harrit and Steven Jones.

Mythbusters’ experiment with thermite

The popular tv show “Mythbusters” which tests more of less crazy myths. One particular show, which first aired on November 12, 2008, (episode 113, “End with a bang”) investigated what happens when half a ton thermite is placed on top of a car. The aim was to cut the car in half.

It turned out that the reaction was so powerful that the thermite cut right down through the car instead of dividing it into halves.

The experiment should not be seen as the final evidence that thermite was not used in the World Trade Center 1, 2, and 7. It merely emphasizes how complicated the use of enormous amounts of thermite is. Even the 10-100 tons of nanothermite that Niels Harrit among others claim was used to blow up the three buildings could hardly be controlled to such a degree that it would instead look like a normal collapse.

The video clip shows that the smoke becomes very pervasive, and a very bright light is seen, neither of which could be hidden from view, if the World Trade Center 1, 2, and 7 had had this secret military experimental explosives placed on each floor.

What is dripping from the building?

A far more plausible explanation, given the temperatures in the building, is that aluminum mixed with soot and other things is dripping from the building in a melted form. Another explanation could be that it is the lead content from power supplies installed in that particular corner of the building.

There is no documentation that it is melted iron/steel.

Whatever it is, it can under no circumstances be pure steel. If it is steel, it would be mixed together with all nearby materials with a lower melting point. Thus, grainy YouTube videos cannot be used to determine the chemical composition based on color and density.


It is illogical that the New World Order should have placed nanothermite in the World Trade Center 1, 2, and 7:

  • If nanothermite, as claimed, can only come from one source (the U.S. Military), it would immediately expose the conspiracy and who was behind it.
  • If conventional explosives are also used, as claimed, there is no reason to experiment with an unproven substance which had not earlier been used to demolish buildings with.
  • If nanothermite was planned as a secret efficient weapon, which can destroy buildings, it makes no sense attacking the Pentagon building which is not a steel-framed high rise. The weapon would not work there.
  • If nanothermite, as claimed, is intended as a secret weapon to destroy the World Trade Center 1, 2, and 7, it should also have been used in the other buildings, the World Trade Center 3, 4, 5 and 6 since these buildings were also destroyed. This, however, is not claimed.

Additionally, it is incoherent and unexplained how the nanothermite supposedly was ignited. It is often claimed that the planes colliding with the World Trade Center 1 and 2 could play a role, but this would only make it more incoherent: It took between 30 and 90 minutes from the planes exploding (and thus be able to ignite anything) to the collapse of the buildings. It also does not explain how the presumed nanothermite in the World Trade Center 7 was ignited, given that the building was not hit by a plane.

It is self-contradicting that the New World Order would use a secret military experimental explosive (nanothermite) for an attack on the World Trade Center in order to make it look like an attack from al Qaeda. The Islamic terror organization had already attacked the World Trade Center in 1993 using a simple fertilizer bomb. The only logical choice would be to use a similar method as the one used by the one you were trying to pin it on.

It is also self-contradicting that Niels Harrit on one hand claims that there was not a lot of smoke coming from the World Trade Center 7 in particular, and on the other hand claims that the building was blown up with nanothermite, given that nanothermite produces an extreme amount of smoke when ignited.

And finally, the claim of nanothermite contradicts one of Niels Harrit’s most often used arguments, namely that it is impossible that something happens for the first time. The argument is used about the World Trade Center 7, where Niels Harrit argues that it is the first time a steel-framed high rise collapses due to fire, so it cannot have happened that way. If the same argument is used with regards to the claim about nanothermite, it immediately eliminates nanothermite because it would have been the first time a building was blown up using that substance.


The claim is therefore:

  • False
  • Undocumented
  • Illogical
  • Self-contradictinjg


  1. Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe, Niels H. Harrit, Jeffrey Farrer, Steven E. Jones Kevin R. Ryan, Frank M. Legge, Daniel Farnsworth, Gregg Roberts, James R. Gourley and Bradley R. Larsen Pp 7-31
    target=_blank>Niels Harrit udfører et forsøg på støv, hævdet at være fra Ground Zero
  2. U. S. Geological Service (USGS)
  3. Environmental Studies of the World Trade Center area after the September 11, 2001 attack, U. S. Geological Service
  4. Chemical compositions of the WTC dusts and girder coating materia, U. S. Geological Service
  5. Data for major elements and all trace elements analyzed in the WTC dust and beam coating samples, U. S. Geological Service
  6. Chefredaktør skrider efter kontroversiel artikel om 9/11,
  7. Søgning: “Active Thermitic Material”, Google Scholar, 3. september, 2011
  8. Cold fusion, Wikipedia

Q & A