Nanothermite: Honeypot?

gretavo's picture

If there is one thing that I currently consider extremely risky to the success of the truth movement, it would have to be any kind of reliance on the seemingly conclusive discovery of nanothermite chips in the WTC dust. It seems to me that too much of the debate that has gone on between "debunkers" and the truth movement has focused on whether or not the red/gray chips reportedly found by truth movement researchers are indeed nanothermite. I have read the paper by Harrit et al. and I have no problem believing that what they found were not chips of paint, that they are indeed nano-engineered, and that they are highly reactive. I consider that debate to be a red herring, and the real question to be whether the samples used are representative--whether all the WTC dust contained these chips--or whether the samples used had been "spiked" as a way of sabotaging the truth movement.

Set aside for a moment the inevitable speculation as to who would have done the spiking and consider the ramifications. It is often argued by those who are convinced that AA77 hit the Pentagon that the issue of what happened at the Pentagon is a honeypot and that the movement, by focusing on it, risks having the government release video of the impact and, it is argued, immediately and irrevocably discrediting the movement.

Consider what would happen if the government were instead to reveal a stash of WTC dust which was shown not to contain a single red/gray chip--would the effect not be the same? In fact, independent analyses of the dust (cited in the footnotes to the Active Thermitic Material paper below) did not report finding red/gray chips, and while it may be argued that these various entities would have been wise enough to make no mention of such incriminating evidence, it is from their reports that we first learned of the existence of previously molten iron and molybdenum spheres, which are no less incriminating! And yet those who are so concerned about a Pentagon honeypot are among the most avid promoters of the nanothermite findings. As honeypots (which are usually "too good to be true) go, nanothermite chips in the dust are MUCH sweeter than an apparent lack of debris and damage in the vicinity of the Pentagon, no?

Suppose the government were in fact to release proof of AA77 hitting the Pentagon. That would hardly spell the end of the truth movement, since AA77 hitting the Pentagon could not have caused the towers be be demolished with explosives, and no one could get very far arguing that the truth movement was therefore discredited. If a convincing argument could be made (and if indeed the samples used by the truth movement have been adulterated it would be very easy to do) that the 9/11 truth movement had falsified evidence proving explosives were used to fell the towers, the damage done to our credibility would be infinitely worse. The public would turn on us faster than it turned on Dan Rather after his letters proving Bush was AWOL were discovered to have been written on a modern typewriter.

This possibility of a trap, however remote it may seem (especially to those who recoil from impugning the motives or sincerity of "truth movement celebrities") must be balanced against the value of the evidence. What is proven by the existence of nanothermite in the dust that isn't proven by the simple and elegant analysis of the kind conducted by David Chandler? By the clear evidence of molten iron flowing from the south tower? By the destruction in the basement reported by Mike Pecoraro as occuring simultaneously with the first plane impact? The case is a slam dunk without invoking nanothermite, and yet we take a huge risk by promoting the findings as incontrovertible evidence.

Given the importance of the provenance of the samples, I am copying below the relevant sections from the paper by Harritt et al.:

Previous studies discussing observations of the WTC dust include reports by the RJ Lee Company [14], the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) [15], McGee et al. [13] and Lioy et al. [16] Some of these studies confirmed the finding of iron-rich microspheres, which are also peculiar [5, 8, 11, 13-15] but the red/gray chips analyzed in this study have apparently not been discussed in previously published reports. It is worth emphasizing that one sample was collected about ten minutes after the collapse of the second Tower, so it cannot possibly have been contaminated by clean-up operations [17].


1. Provenance of the Samples Analyzed for this Report

In a paper presented first online in autumn 2006 regarding anomalies observed in the World Trade Center destruction [6], a general request was issued for samples of the WTC dust. The expectation at that time was that a careful examination of the dust might yield evidence to support the hypothesis that explosive materials other than jet fuel caused the extraordinarily rapid and essentially total destruction of the WTC buildings.

It was learned that a number of people had saved samples of the copious, dense dust, which spread and settled across Manhattan. Several of these people sent portions of their samples to members of this research group. This paper discusses four separate dust samples collected on or shortly after 9/11/2001. Each sample was found to contain red/gray chips. All four samples were originally collected by private citizens who lived in New York City at the time of the tragedy.

These citizens came forward and provided samples for analysis in the public interest, allowing study of the 9/11 dust for whatever facts about the day might be learned from the dust. A map showing the locations where the four samples were collected is presented as Fig. (1).

The earliest-collected sample came from Mr. Frank Delessio who, according to his videotaped testimony [17], was on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge about the time the second tower, the North Tower, fell to the ground. He saw the tower fall and was enveloped by the resulting thick dust which settled throughout the area. He swept a handful of the dust from a rail on the pedestrian walkway near the end of the bridge, about ten minutes after the fall of the North Tower. He then went to visit his friend, Mr. Tom Breidenbach, carrying the dust in his hand, and the two of them discussed the dust and decided to save it in a plastic bag. On 11/15/2007, Breidenbach sent a portion of this dust to Dr. Jones for analysis. Breidenbach has also recorded his testimony about the collection of this dust sample on videotape [17]. Thus, the Delessio/Breidenbach sample was collected about ten minutes after the second tower collapsed. It was, therefore, definitely not contaminated by the steelcutting or clean-up operations at Ground Zero, which began later. Furthermore, it is not mixed with dust from WTC 7, which fell hours later.

On the morning of 9/12/2001, Mr. Stephen White of New York City entered a room in his apartment on the 8th floor of 1 Hudson Street, about five blocks from the WTC. He found a layer of dust about an inch thick on a stack of folded laundry near a window which was open about 4 inches (10 cm).

Evidently the open window had allowed a significant amount of dust from the WTC destruction the day before to enter the room and cover the laundry. He saved some of the dust and, on 2/02/2008, sent a sample directly to Dr. Jones for analysis.

Another sample was collected from the apartment building at 16 Hudson Street by Mr. Jody Intermont at about 2 pm on 9/12/2001. Two small samples of this dust were simultaneously sent to Dr. Jones and to Kevin Ryan on 2/02/2008 for analysis. Intermont sent a signed affidavit with each sample verifying that he had personally collected the (nowsplit) sample; he wrote: “This dust, which came from the ‘collapsed’ World Trade Center Towers, was collected from my loft at the corner of Reade Street and Hudson Street on September 12, 2001. I give permission to use my name in connection to this evidence”. [Signed 31 January 2008 in the presence of a witness who also signed his name].

On the morning of 9/11/2001, Ms. Janette MacKinlay was in her fourth-floor apartment at 113 Cedar St./110 Liberty St. in New York City, across the street from the WTC plaza. As the South Tower collapsed, the flowing cloud of dust and debris caused windows of her apartment to break inward and dust filled her apartment. She escaped by quickly wrapping a wet towel around her head and exiting the building.

The building was closed for entry for about a week. As soon as Ms. MacKinlay was allowed to re-enter her apartment, she did so and began cleaning up. There was a thick layer of dust on the floor. She collected some of it into a large sealable plastic bag for possible later use in an art piece. Ms. MacKinlay responded to the request in the 2006 paper by Dr. Jones by sending him a dust sample. In November 2006, Dr. Jones traveled to California to visit Ms. MacKinlay at her new location, and in the company of several witnesses collected a second sample of the WTC dust directly from her large plastic bag where the dust was stored. She has also sent samples directly to Dr. Jeffrey Farrer and Kevin Ryan. Results from their studies form part of this report. Another dust sample was collected by an individual from a window sill of a building on Potter Street in NYC. He has not given permission for his name to be disclosed, therefore his material is not included in this study. That sample, however, contained red/gray chips of the same general composition
as the samples described here.

[13] McGee JK, Chen LC, Cohen MD, et al. Chemical analysis of world trade center fine particulate matter for use in toxicologic assessment. Environ Health Perspect 2003; 111: 972-80. [Accessed February 7, 2009]. Available from:

[14] Lee RJ Group. WTC dust signature report, composition and morphology. December 2003. [Accessed February 7, 2009]. Available from:

[15] Lowers HA, Meeker GP. Particle atlas of World Trade Center dust. September 2005; [Accessed February 7, 2009]. Available from:

[16] Lioy PJ, Weisel CP, Millette JR, et al. Characterization of the dust/smoke aerosol that settled east of the World Trade Center (WTC) in lower manhattan after the collapse of the WTC 11. September 2001. Environ Health Perspect 2002; 110(7): 703-14. [Accessed February 7, 2009]. Available from:

[17] Delessio F, Breidenbach T. Videotaped testimonies at Faneuil Hall, Boston, MA, December 2007. [Accessed February 7, 2009]. Available from: , start at timestamp 34:54.

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Annoymouse's picture

I myself have some WTC dust

I would be interested in collaborating with someone in continuing my studies of the dust that I found in my home, a few hundred feet south of the WTC.

Annoymouse's picture

Forgot to tell you how to contact me

gretavo's picture

More nanothermite promotion at 911blogger

It's a one-two punch by Kevin Ryan and Frank Legge, the former posting a blog and the latter commenting on it with a rebuttal to someone else's (deliberately lame?) critique of the nanothermite issue.

The explosive nature of nanothermite

The explosive nature of nanothermite

By Kevin Ryan


In the last few years, a series of peer-reviewed scientific articles has been published that establish the presence of thermitic materials at the World Trade Center (WTC). [A-D]

Although we know that nanothermite has been found in the WTC dust, we do not know what purpose it served in the deceptive demolition of the WTC buildings. It could be that the nanothermite was used simply to drive fires in the impact zones and elevator areas – fires which would otherwise have gone out too early or not been present at all – and thereby create the deception that jet fuel-induced fires could wreak the havoc seen. Nanothermite might also have been used to produce the explosions necessary to destroy the structural integrity of the buildings.

Nanothermite, also called superthermite, is the common name for a subset of metastable intermolecular composites (MICs) characterized by a highly exothermic reaction after ignition. Nanothermites contain an oxidizer and a reducing agent that are intimately mixed on the nanometer scale. Such nano-energetics are produced for various applications including propellants, explosives, and pyrotechnics.

There are various ways to make nanothermites. They can be made as solid mixtures of aluminum and metal oxides which are typically produced using techniques like dynamic vapor phase condensation and arrested reactive milling. These mixtures are much like typical thermite mixtures, but with the components introduced on a much smaller scale. Alternatively, nanothermites can be made in a liquid solution that later gels, capturing the reactive components in an intimately mixed composite which is dried before it can be ignited. These are called sol-gel nanothermites, also known more generally as energetic nanocomposites.

Sol-gel nanothermites often contain other components such as fluorinated silanes, and therefore carbon and silicon. The nanothermite found in World Trade Center (WTC) dust samples contains carbon and silicon as well. Ignition of such a nanothermite results in the production of gas which rapidly expands and does pressure-volume work. One of the primary products of the thermite reaction, aluminum oxide, is also a gas at the temperatures produced by the thermite reaction.

Below are ten references to the fact that nanothermites can be made to be explosive.

1. This 2004 paper from Lawrence Livermore Labs is quite clear about nanothermites being –

explosive composites based on thermite reactions.”

It begins: “We have developed a new method of making nanostructured energetic materials, specifically explosives…using sol-gel chemistry.”

2. This online article entitled “NanoScale Chemistry Yields Better Explosives” discusses the procedure by which sol-gel nanothermites are made and gives a nice TEM image of a nanothermite.

3. This US Department of Defense journal from Spring, 2002 describes how:

“All of the military services and some DOE and academic laboratories have active R&D programs aimed at exploiting the unique properties of nanomaterials that have potential to be used in energetic formulations for advanced explosives.”

It clarifies that –

[Nanothermite properties] “include energy output that is 2x that of high explosives” and “As sol-gel materials and methodology advances, there are a number of possible application areas that are envisioned [including] high-power, high-energy composite explosives.

4. A high explosive creates a shockwave that always travels at high, supersonic velocity from the point of origin. This paper describes how –

“the reaction of the low density nanothermite composite leads to a fast propagating combustion, generating shock waves with Mach numbers up to 3.

5. In this paper, former NIST employee Michael Zachariah discusses –

“developing an oxidizer matrix for reaction with nano-aluminum [i.e. nanothermite] for energy intensive applications involving explosives and propellants…”.

6. This article helps us understand how the military has been leveraging the potential explosive power of nanoenergetic compounds, specifically nanothermites. It describes a –

“new class of weaponry that uses energy-packed nanometals to create powerful, compact bombs.” Purdue professor Steven Son, who has become a leading expert on nanothermites, goes on to say that “Superthermites can increase the (chemical) reaction time by a thousand times…resulting in a very rapid reactive wave…used in many applications, including…explosive devices.” The article says that such nanoenergetics enable “building more lethal weapons such as cave-buster bombs that have several times the detonation force of conventional bombs.”

7. Unlike some energetic materials, nanothermites are “tunable”, meaning the “ignition sensitivity thresholds, reaction rate, and pressure generation can be tailored to have a wide range of values.” Explosives generate pressure, as do nanothermites tuned to do just that.

8. This conference paper states that –

“Nanoenergetic thermite materials release energy much faster than conventional energetic materials and have various potential military applications such as… explosives. They are likely to become the next-generation explosive materials.”

9. This paper from the US Army describes how:

“These tunable nanoenergetic materials will be useful for various applications such as high-temperature non-detonable gas generators, adaptable flares, green primers for propellants and explosives, high power/energy explosives.

10. Even Wikipedia knows that nanothermite is used for explosive applications.

Nanothermites “are generally developed for military use, propellants, explosives, and pyrotechnics. Because of their highly increased reaction rate, nanosized thermitic materials are being researched by the U.S. military with the aim of developing new types of bombs that are several times more powerful than conventional explosives.

Of course, many more such references exist in the literature and it doesn’t take much effort to discover them. Anyone who is interested in truth and justice can find these and more.

Future analytical work on WTC dust and other samples will help us understand what exact kind(s) of nanothermite was used at the WTC and, perhaps, for what purposes it was used. Until then, the simple fact that nanothermite has been found throughout the WTC dust is itself explosive. And it is an incendiary fact that official investigators and mainstream media have ignored that explosive fact for more than two years.

[A] Steven E. Jones, et al, Fourteen Points of Agreement with Official Government Reports on the World Trade Center Destruction, The Open Civil Engineering Journal Volume 2, 2008

[B] Steven E. Jones, et al, Extremely high temperatures during the World Trade Center destruction, Journal of 9/11 Studies, Volume 19, January 2008,

[C] Kevin R. Ryan, et al, Environmental anomalies at the World Trade Center: evidence for energetic materials, The Environmentalist, Volume 29, Number 1 / March, 2009,

[D] Niels H. Harrit, et al, Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe, The Open Chemical Physics Journal, Volume 2, 2009

An open letter to T Mark Hightower

T Mark Hightower

You ask for corrections to your article “Has Nanothermite been oversold to the 9/11 Truth community”. Perhaps it has by some. Who knows what various enthusiasts might have said. For your article to be taken seriously it must refer to the work by the authors of the “Active Thermitic Materials…” paper. Here are some errors.

In your introduction, para 2, you refer to nanothermite as a “finely granulated form of thermite”. This gives the false impression that nanothermite is produced by finely grinding ordinary thermite. I have read your bio and see that you are capable of understanding the chemistry, thus I charge you with deliberately misleading the reader. You know as well as I do that nanothermite is manufactured by a sol-gel process in which the essential ingredients, aluminium and iron oxide, are combined at the molecular level in a matrix. You would also know that the matrix would be expected to generate gas.

Then we read that nanothermite “served to pulverize the steel”. This is reminiscent of the disinformation which emanates from Judy Wood. You know the steel was not pulverized but was severed and fell in normal lengths. Why do you deceive?

Your most egregious error is focusing on what various people might have said from time to time instead of studying the current clearly set out position. If you read through the “Active Thermitic Materials…” paper you will not find the phrase “high explosive” anywhere in it. You will find the word “explosive”, often in quotes from papers on the subject of nanothermites, where the authors of the various papers have no hesitation in using the word. It all boils down to how fast the material reacts as to whether it might be called a pyrotechnic or an explosive. It clearly states in the paper that nanothermite might have been used with some other explosive to bring down the buildings.

It seems you want to know what might have been in the matrix. You will have read all the relevant papers so you already know that research has been done on the fluorine-containing compounds, viton and polyterafluoroethylene. You should know that the reaction of fluorine with aluminium produces more energy that does oxygen. You already know that the product of the reaction is aluminium trifluoride. You should know that this is a gas at the reaction temperature. It has a boiling point much lower than aluminium oxide. It can therefore do “pressure-volume” work. Other organic materials can produce gas when heated to the reaction temperature. What more do you need to know?

You say your offer of $1000 is generous. It is not. You know that the highest propagation velocities in the literature are less than your cut-off level.

You say that Prof Steven Jones made the error of placing nanothermite in the same category as the high explosive RDX. What do you mean by “the same category”? Did he say it had the same propagation velocity? I hardly think so. Please give me the quote. What he says now, and has always said as far as I know, is that nanothermite is tailorable and can be formulated with various properties. That comes straight from the literature, which you will have already read.

You can read his current position here:

In short your article is a magician’s trick. It is posing questions for investigation, but it is posing the wrong questions. You are trying to get your reader to think about the velocity of a nanothermite explosion. The proper thing to get your reader to think about is whether it is normal for nanothermite to be found in a building which has collapsed supposedly due to fire. And of course we have the work of Jon Cole which showed that even ordinary thermite, if confined, could cut through a steel beam, proving that high velocity flame fronts are not essential.

Your strategy is very like that of CIT. Craig and Aldo try to distract their readers with the question of whether the plane came in to the Pentagon from the north or the south of the Citgo service station. If north it could not have done the observed damage and must have flown over. The proper question is whether the plane came in high or low. Every witness said the plane hit the Pentagon or was so low it could not miss. Not one witness has been found for overfly and hundreds were in a position to see it. It didn’t fly over – it hit the Pentagon.

Similarly by distracting your readers with the question about whether nanothermite is a high explosive you appear to be hoping they will not give thought to the shatteringly important fact that nanothermite has no business in a building collapse due to fire. You appear to be mischievously spreading the myth that the Nanothermite paper is unsatisfactory. This harms the movement and does you no credit.


I love this. I'm no scientist, but trust the integrity of you all working so hard to get the truth out, esp Kevin Ryan, in this.

I "share" regularly trying to limit myself to-once per week-much of what I find here, with a group of about 50. Who knows if they all even read the postings(Only a couple asked to be removed from the list.) but if it ever all comes out mainstream, perhaps they;ll remember, "oh, right... I heard something about that-even if I only read the headline."

Anyway, one of my correspondents, very intelligent, historically and open-minded, is playing devil's advocate, asking the following questions, which I suppose more members of the public at large might also do. Any help answering him, i'd appreciate.!! I did find the recent Canadian interview with Dr. Niels Harrit's in which he defends the chain of custody of the dust samples. :

Here are my friend's questions:" After the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1992(?), what lessons were drawn? What scenarios were spun? What contingency plans were made in anticipation of a future attack? What did the insurance contract look like before 1992? What did it look like after that first attack? Were any plans made for what to do with the towers in the event that they were crippled by an attack, but still standing? Did anyone consider what it would look like to have two hulking, uninhabitable ruins dominating the skyline of new york for a generation? Who was schedualed to pay the costs of piece-by-piece removal in the event the buildings had to be dismantled?
Basically, what plans were made after 1992? Could that be the source of the thermite?"

I've referred him to Sibel Edmond's interview with Peter Lance, in which he speaks voluminously about the '93 attacks.
Thank you.

A question I have: When was nano-thermite first 'available'? When is the first mention made of it in these military journals, etc? In Mr. Ryan's article he is quoting articles since 9/11, it seems, which refer to the technology as new.

Nano-Thermite Evidence Deserves Its Day In Court

One “back door” means of investigating with subpoena powers, the origins of the nano-thermitic incendiary material discovered in the World Trade Center (WTC) dust [1], would be a class action civil damages lawsuit comprised of willing 9/11 victim family members and survivors, based on the apparently unlawful presence of these hazardous nano-thermitic incendiaries within the WTC towers immediately prior to September 11, 2001. Such a complaint could proceed under the position of attributing culpable negligence to the Port Authority of NY/NJ and construction contractors assigned by them, for being the likely reason these materials became present within the buildings. Such a civil complaint could reasonably allege, that these nano-thermitic incendiaries: 1). contributed to the fires already present in both buildings and or; 2). somehow contributed to the possibly related and well documented accelerated corrosion [2] (and thus weakening) of WTC structural steel noted by official studies and contributed to the building collapses and loss of life that ensued.

Perhaps most importantly, such a court action could create subpoena opportunities for otherwise inaccessible records and personnel recollections of the private contractors utilized by the Port Authority of NY/NJ; city, state or federal work-site inspectors; recollections of property engineers; records of project construction materials and methods utilized; names of providers of such materials and even access to and further study of other officially known WTC dust samples, that are now beyond reach. Any suspect information obtained during discovery could bolster already existing evidence of potential foul play capable of generating a future official investigation.

Construction contractors were apparently assigned by the Port Authority of NY/NJ to perform extensive pre-9/11 renovations known to be underway until the very morning of 9/11 upon the supporting steel structures within the WTC tower elevator shafts [3].

An official investigation may still be years away (if ever), but the type of relatively immediate civil action described above could yield the kind of investigative opportunities we all seek.

[1] Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe
[2] The "Deep Mystery" of Melted Steel
[3] Port Authority of NY/NJ: Records For Reported WTC Renovation Work Destroyed On 9/11

gretavo's picture

Can nanothermite be made explosive? Who cares?

The WTC demolitions appear to have involved some type of thermite (that produces substantial amounts of molten iron) and some kind of explosive, likely a very stable one that would not detonate from shock or extreme temperatures. Arguing about the properties of something that may or may not have been used when it's clear that the real issue is what was done, not how it was done, is a monumental waste of time or worse. We know it was done, we can show this convincingly to people without explaining exactly how it was done. We can offer possibilities that are supported by more than Steven Jones' say so.

Previously molten iron (and other metal) rich spheres cited in various mainstream reports, some of them from the US government (meaning the findings are public record.)

Strong circumstancial evidence for the presence of *some* type of explosives including physics analyses like David Chandler's and the many eyewitness accounts in media interviews on the scene as well as those collected by the FDNY that state unequivocally that explosions were going off all over the the twin towers and building 7 before anything "collapsed".

The "red/gray chips", or nanothermite, are almost certainly a trap. Seemingly bulletproof evidence not only of a smoking gun, but as Niels Harrit likes to put it in his media appearances, a "loaded gun". In the sense of being likely to blow up in the truth movement's face, Prof. Harrit is correct--a high profile media circus involving "the truthers' best evidence", the nanothermite discovered by Steven Jones, complete with an as yet unforeseen debunking (perhaps a giant cache of WTC dust that shows no red gray chips, as if those could all be easily removed given how prevalent they were in Jones' small samples) and an exposé on Jones' kookier past work and recent comments in support of Glenn Beck might be in the cards. This would be designed to hamper the efforts of the real truth movement (those of us who will be doing outreach in public over the next several months) which will be well advised to be ready to deal with the nanothermite fallout.

gretavo's picture

More nanothermite propaganda

1718, from Mod.L. propaganda, short for Congregatio de Propaganda Fide "congregation for propagating the faith," committee of cardinals established 1622 by Gregory XV to supervise foreign missions, prop. abl. fem. gerundive of L. propagare (see propagation). Modern political sense dates from World War I, not originally pejorative.