Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Steven Jones and Jeff Farrer confirm four of my claims concerning red-gray chips

Summary

Steven E. Jones and Jeff Farrer, both among the authors of the 2009 paper "Active Thermitic Material..." (ATM, [1]) by Harrit e.al., have now confirmed four claims I have made about that paper and the red-gray chips discussed therein:

  1. The chips contain traces of strontium and chromium, corroborating my claim that some chips may be LaClede steel primer, which contains ca. 1% by weight Strontium Chromate pigments [2]
  2. Their XEDS data of chips a-d is consistent with kaolin as the sole ingredient that contains Al
  3. They concede that a DSC experiment, done by LLNL scientists Tom Tillotson and Alex Gash and refered to in ATM, may have been performed under inert atmosphere and not, as they previously believed, under air
  4. Red-gray chips found in WTC are not all the same material, they represent at least two different materials

Jones and Farrer speak

A few days ago, on september 8th, Steven Jones posted recommendations to an unnamed scientist who wants to do a replication of the Harrit e.al. experiments on red-gray chips at 911Blogger [3]. A day later, he appended comments (or paraphrases thereof) that he had received from Jeff Farrer. Please find the bulk of his post quoted below.

I will now show how Jones and Farrer confirm four claims I have made about their experiments on red-gray all along.

Discussion

1. Farrer corroborates Strontium Chromate from LaClede primer paint

As I have previously shown [2], the four red-gray chips labeled "a-d" in Figures 2 - 11 of ATM [1] are consistent with what one would expect from chips of LaClede Standard Primer - a red paint that, according to NIST documentation, was painted on the floor joists of the WTC twin towers. These floor joists probably had more painted surface than the perimeter columns (painted with Tnemec 69 or 99) and the core columns (painted with unknown primer(s)) and can thus be expected to be abundant in WTC dust.

To recap: LaClede standard primer was a paint that, per specification, consisted of 71.5% by weight epoxy (organic matrix) and 28.5% mineral pigments. Of the pigments, 55% by weight was red iron oxide (i.e. hematite = Fe2O3 with a size most likely in the range 100-300 nanometers), 41% aluminium silicates (with kaolin, a naturally mined clay silcate, chemical sum formula Al2Si2O9H5, being the most mundane candidate) and 4% Strontium Chromate (SrCrO4). This would be equivalent to there being approximately 0.5% Strontium and 0.3% Chromium in the ready paint, along with 11% iron and 2.5% and 2.4% silicon and aluminium. I have further shown that an XEDS spectrum of this paint at 20 keV (the electron energy used by Harrit e.al. for their Fig. 7) would show a small signal for Cr, but that Sr would quite likely be missed due to its small signal being right underneath the much larger Si-signel. I have pointed to a letter by Niels Harrit [4] in which Harrit documented that small signals for both Cr and Sr were detectable at least in their chip a.

We learn via Steven Jones now that Jeff Farrer has done further TEM-studies on red-gray chips, and has confirmed the presence of both Strontium and Chromium:

6. Jeff notes that in his TEM analyses he observed “very small (nanometer-scale) Pb particles in the TEM samples” as well as strontium and chromium in small amounts. (Much of the TEM analysis was performed at higher magnification than used in the SEM analysis done in the paper.) Thus, red/gray chips which match ours will show these same elements under TEM analysis.

TEM is "Transmission electron microscopy". The XEDS spectra shown in ATM[1] were all derived from "SEM" equipment, that is "Scanning electron microscope". Jones is clear that Farrer did identify Sr and Cr with the TEM.

This would corroborate the result from [4], that some red-gray chips contain particles (pigments) with Strontium and Chromium - a result clearly consistent with my assertion that some chips are LaClede primer.

It is true that Dr. Millette [8] did not show any Sr in his TEM data. I submit that this could possibly result from Sr-chromate making up only 4% of the LaClede pigment - one part in 25. It isn't totally unlikely that a microscopic LaClede sample with countably few pigments by chance simply contains no Sr-chromate pigment. I wish though Dr. Millette would go back to the lab and specifically search for such pigments (they should be recognizable by their probable shape, which is typically acicular, i.e. needle-shaped, with length in the range of 1-4 micrometers)

It would be interesting to know how Farrer identified elements on the TEM, and see his actual results (images, spectra...). One technique available on TEM to identify not elements as such but crystal structures and thus, potentially, the minerals in question, is TEM-SAED ("Selected area electron diffraction"). I wonder if Farrer has specifically identified Strontium Chromate. I call upon Drs Farrer and Jones to publish their TEM data as soon as possible!

2. Farrer confirms Al and Si consistent with kaolin

In his own initial post, Jones makes the following assertion:

... looking at aluminum-containing platelets which we were able to isolate quite well in the thin sample. We found that the Al and Si are in fact NOT in equal amounts; the Al:Si ratio came out to approximately 0.92 (based on atomic wt %, TEM focused on a platelet.) How could this be the mineral kaolinite as you suggest, for which the Al:Si ratio is exactly 1.0? Formula: Al2Si2O5(OH)4

An Al:Si ratio of 0.92 would mean there is more silicon than aluminium in those "aluminum-containing platelets" - a strange finding for one who claims to have a formulation of Fe-Al-thermite in which the Al is found in said platelets. Note that Jones fails to mention that the same platelets also contain a very significant amount of oxigen, as can be seen in Fig. 11a of [1]. It would be interesting to get a value for the Al:O ratio there!

However, Jones's claim that the measured ratio of 0.92 disproves kaolinite, is FALSE, as Farrer has pointed out. Jones added the following remark a day later:

5. With regard to the 0.92 ratio, Jeff notes that he did not use standards for the TEM/XEDS analysis so this ratio could be consistent with unity. The interested scientist is encouraged to use standards for the TEM/XEDS so this ratio can be pinned down definitively.

Kudos to Farrer for pointing this out, and to Jones for faithfully forwarding that comment. So it seems Farrer's TEM-data on those platelets is consistent with kaolin after all!

(To wrap up my argument: Fig. 7 (XEDS spectra for bulk or red layers) shows that chips a-d all have Al:Si ratios near unity. The only constituent of chips a-d identified by the Jones team as containing Al are these platelets, which means that all, or almost all, the Al in the chips is actually contained in the platelets. The elemental composition as well as the morphology of these platelets is entirely consistent with kaolin clay, a common paint ingredient. It is indeed the best explanation for ALL the data Harrit e.al. have presented on chips a-d. So if the Al in the platelets is present in a stoichiometric proportion to Si to form kaolin, or even sllightly too little Al, then there is no Al left - neither in the platelets nor elsewhere in the chip - to account for a hypothetical presence of elemental Al.)

3. Farrer concedes he may have done DSC-test the wrong way

The context for that topic is this: In ATM [1], Harrit e.al. present, in Fig. 19, DSC traces for four (unknown, uncharacterised) chips. They compare one of these with a DSC trace taken from a paper by LLNL scientists Tom Tillotson and Alex Gash [5], which was from a sample of experimental nano-thermite. Harrot e.al. claim that the DSC traces basically have the same characteristics (while in fact it can be clearly seen that they are quite different in many respects), and take this as one of their best pieces of evidence that the red-gray chips are not thermitic. The DSC test on the red-gray chips was done by Jeff Farrer, and it was done under an atmosphere of normal air, i.e. in the presence of ca. 21% oxygen. In Tillotson e.al., no indication is given if the test was done under air or inert gas.

Steven Jones and Niels Harrit have claimed on several occasions that Jeff Farrer contacted Tillotson and Gash before doing his DSC test and learned from them that they used air. I have called this a lie. It is patently obvious why doing the experiment under air would be a fool's errand when you know (as both Tillotson e.al. and Harrit e.al. did) that your sample contains organic material which is likely to combust under air when heated. I just didn't know if the lie orignated with Farrer, who is alleged to have called the LLNL scientists, or with Jones or Harrit, who may have invented that bit of information about Farrer. I know however of two emails that Gash and Tillotson wrote on the matter and that prove Jones and Harrit wrong [6]. First from Gash's email:

[...] As you correctly point out DSC in an O2 atmosphere will combust the organic impurities and greatly add to the energy release. However the DSC in question was done in ultra pure nitrogen. [...]

Alex

Then Tillotson:

The experiment was performed as Alex described...in ultra pure nitrogen as is standard technique here at LLNL. If Mr. Farrer did contact me I can guarantee you that I did not respond to his questions.

Tom Tillotson

Now, Jeff Farrer has advised Jones to backpaddle from the earlier claims. Jones appends Farrer's comment (my emphasize):

1. Dr. Farrer contacted Dr. Tillotson of LLNL regarding the LLNL production and ignition of nano-thermite; Dr Tillotson said the experiments were likely done in atmosphere. After publication of our paper, others have suggested that the experiments in the LLNL publication were performed in an inert atmosphere; so the picture is not clear to us at this time and further contact with the LLNL scientists is advised. It would be best to run studies in both atmosphere and in an inert gas.

Good to see that all of a sudden they really don't know. It must be pointed out that Tillotson has expressedly denied the claim that he replied to a question by Farrer, if ever he received one.

Obviously, it should be assumed at this time that

  1. Tillotson and Gash did their experiment under inert gas
  2. Farrer did his test under 21% oxygen
  3. The results of both teams can thus not be compared
  4. No DSC test will yield any useful results with regard to identifying or excluding thermite if done under air
  5. A replication of the DSC is thus not desirable and should be advised against

To pile up, Alex Gash today believes DSC is not a good method at all to characterize a (nano-)thermite reaction. In his email, he continues:

While that may or may not be the case over the years we have come to rely less and less on the enthalpy from DSC for irreversible reactions as an absolutely accurate value.

In irreversible high energy processes the solid is undergoing many changes that may lead to inefficient heat transfer tot he DSC sensor and thus an inaccurate heat flow measurement. At the time of publication, we had more faith in the absolute value of these measurements. That is not to say DSC is not useful, quite the contrary. It gives us a reasonable idea how energetic a composition may be, it identifies decomposition temperatures, and is very accurate for determining the enthalpy of reversible heat flow (e.g., phase transitions, melting etc..). Since the publication of that paper we have found that combustion calorimetry is a far more accurate way to determine reaction enthalpy.

Gash confirms what any person experienced with and knowledgable about DSC could have told you: DSC is very good for physical processes, good for decomposition, but not good for vigorous chemical reactions. Another excellent reason why replication of Farrer's DSC-expermient is not a good idea.

4. Jones admits that red-gray chips may be from different materials

In a previous post, I have already explained why red-gray chips aren't all the same [7]: Harrit e.al. themselves point out how different chips are characterized by different significant elements. It really is quite obvious.

Yet, Jones and Harrit go on and pretend like all chips are basically the same material. In particular, their MEK-soaked chip (Fig. 12-18) is obviously quite different from chips a-d (Fig. 2-11, which are much more likely all the same stuff) in several respects, yet they pretend that a result found on that MEK-soaked chip (apparent trace occurance of elemental Al) can be extrapolated to chips a-d. Further on, no spectra or images are provided for the four chips burned in the DSC (Fig. 19), so their identity and characteristics remain unknown - it is simply assumed, without argument, that they are the same material.

It can't be stressed enough that all conclusions of ATM [1] are fundamentally dependent on the unproven, and actually refuted, assumption that all red-gray chips in WTC dust that are attrected to a magnet are basically the same (thermitic) material because they lump together results gained from different specimens and form a conclusion that is assumed to be valid for all of them.

With his new statement, Steven Jones now implies that red-gray chips extracted from WTC dust by magnet are from different materials. He writes:

I (Dr. Jones) have searched Millette's plots and see no indication of strontium (Sr) or lead (Pb) in his samples, but he does report titanium (Ti) which we do not see. Thus, his samples do not appear to be the same material as what we reported on.

Please keep in mind that Millette used the very same method to gather red-gray chips that Jones did. Thus, if Millette can extract a different material, so can Jones, and with that reasoning, he has to consider the possibility that, for example, the MEK-soaked chip wasn't the same material as chips a-d, or that the chips Farrer wasted in the DSC were different from each other, from chips a-d, and / or different from the MEK-soaked chip.

Also, note how Jones determines that "his [Millette's] samples do not appear to be the same material": he notes that some of Millettes chips, according to SEM-XEDS spectra, contain element X and not Y, while some of Jones's chips contain Y and not X. The same argument can be applied to Jones's own chips:

  1. The MEK-soaked chip contains Zn and Mg but no Na or K; Chip (c) on the other hand contains neither Zn nor Mg, but does show Na and K.
  2. The DSC-residue of a chip shown in Fig. 25 shows Ti; Neither chips a-d nor the MEK-soaked chip have Ti.
  3. The chip in Fig. 31 contains Pb. No other chip shown in [1] contains Pb
  4. The gray layer of the chip in Fig. 33 contains no Fe; all gray layers in Fig 6 are dominated by Fe

I call on Steven Jones to puclicly acknowledge that obviously the red-gray chips are of different materials, rendering the conclusions of Harrit e.al. invalid!

There's even more: Jones rejects Millette's samples on the ground that Millette reports no Pb, Sr and Cr. By the same reasoning, Jones ought to have rejected ALL specimens presented in his own paper, ATM, on the grounds that none are shown to contain Pb, Sr and Cr!

He alleges that Millette's finding of Ti is grounds to exclude the specimen from the study, yet included a specimen with Ti in ATM.

The explanations for these discrepancies are obvious:

  1. As the chips are obviously from different materials, some are bound to contain Pb, others not; some are bound to contain Sr and Cr, others not; some are bound to contain Ti, others not; some are bound to contain Zn or Mg, others not; etc.
  2. On each specimen, it would be possible and easy to miss a small trace of an element when scanning the bulk of a particle with SEM-EDS, but finding small particles containing that element within the specimen when focussing the much hiigher resolution of TEM-EDS on select pigments

Farrer's finding of particles containing Pb, Sr and Cr is very interesting, but near useless without having the actual data for reference. I call upon Dr. Farrer to publish his TEM-data fully and as soon as possible!

Conclusions

Steven Jones did not intend this, isn't perhaps aware of it and would probably deny it, but his latest comments have strengthened the hypothesis that some of the red-gray chips were corroded steel chipped off the WTC floor joists, which were painted by LaClede Steel Company with a primer containing pigments of Iron Oxide and Kaolin along with traces of Strontium Chromate, by confirming that

  1. some chips contain particles with strontium and chromium
  2. the Al:Si ratio observed in many of the chips is consistent with Kaolin

Further, he has retracted the claim that DSC tests ought to be done under air to compare the results with actual nano-thermite. This puts into further doubt the validity and usefulness of doing DSC tests on the red-gray chips and speaks against repeating such tests.

Lastly, Jones has admitted, by implication, that the WTC dust contains several different materials that form red-gray, magnetically attracted chips. He has provided criteria for when to doubt that two chips are of the same material. Applying the same criteria to ATM (Harrit e.al., [1]) invalidates at once all major conclusions of that paper and resets the status of the debate to "there is no evidence that any red-gray chips contain aluminothermic material".

The Source: Recent remarks by Steven Jones at 911Blogger

Quoting at length from the post for posterity - first what Jones originally posted (I left out parts that bring up other issues than the four I discuss here):

Dear [Interested Scientist],

Yes, I would encourage you to do a follow-up study on the World Trade Center dust, after you have carefully read our “Active Thermitic Materials...” paper. [Niels Harrit, Jeffrey Farrer, Steven Jones, et al. "Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe", THE OPEN CHEMICAL PHYSICS JOURNAL, April 2009.]

Among the most salient observations in that paper are these:

1. the observation of elemental-iron-rich spheres in the ash following ignition of the red/gray chips in the Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC),
2. the sharp peaking of the heat-traces in each case for the ignition of red/gray chips in the DSC (Figure 19).

Therefore, I am pleased that you propose to do DSC analyses along the lines that we preformed; as you noted, James Millette did NOT do DSC analyses at all for his report MVA9119. What a shame, really, and I hope you will do better as you propose.
[...]
When Dr Farrer burned epoxy paint in the DSC, it gave a very broad thermal trace, NOT at all like the spiked exothermic DSC peak in our Fig 19. This is one of the many tests he did to check things.

[...]

You suggest that you would like to ignite the red material in an inert atmosphere, which is not a bad idea but there are caveats. Dr Farrer of our team contacted one of the LLNL scientists about this issue, and was informed that the LLNL tests of nano-thermite were performed in air; which is why we did our tests in air also. Thus, we could make direct comparisons with the LLNL data on nano-thermite fabricated at the LLNL laboratory.

Later, we mixed up some ultra-fine aluminum and iron-oxide powders thus making a type of nano-thermite (but with no organic matrix). This was run in the DSC at BYU in an inert atmosphere up to 700C – and it did not ignite! We concluded that oxygen may be important to get the reaction initiated.

You say that the exothermic peaks we observed in the DSC (our Figure 19) could be due to burning of epoxy paint. Not according to our experiments -- that is, when Dr Farrer burned epoxy paint in the DSC, it gave a very broad thermal trace, NOT at all like the spiked exothermic DSC peaks in Fig 19. Igniting paint in the same DSC is one of many tests performed to double-check our experiments, and I urge you to do similar tests.

Please keep these facts in mind as you undertake DSC studies – which I welcome! Yes, I was surprised that James Millette did not even perform DSC studies.

[...]

Dr Farrer and I did some work with Transmission Electron Microscopy after the paper was published, looking at aluminum-containing platelets which we were able to isolate quite well in the thin sample. We found that the Al and Si are in fact NOT in equal amounts; the Al:Si ratio came out to approximately 0.92 (based on atomic wt %, TEM focused on a platelet.) How could this be the mineral kaolinite as you suggest, for which the Al:Si ratio is exactly 1.0? Formula: Al2Si2O5(OH)4 .

The accuracy of the TEM analysis should allow you (and Millette) to determine if you are indeed looking at the same material that we reported on, beginning with the Al:Si ratio.

I encourage you to do TEM analysis as we have done. Studying electron-diffraction patterns obtained with the TEM, Dr. Farrer found that that the iron-oxide was in the form Fe2O3. He did not see a pattern demonstrating that aluminum was in a form he recognized by this method, which surprised us. There are possible explanations for this; see for example http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/jom/0203/perepezko-0203.html . I'll leave it at that for now. I have encouraged Dr. Farrer to write up and publish his TEM findings. Did Millette see an electron diffraction pattern demonstrating that aluminum occurs in the form of kaolinite? His report does state: Millette report: "TEM-SAED-EDS analysis of a thin section of the red layer showed equant-shaped particles of iron consistent with iron oxide pigments and plates of kaolin clay (Figures 20 and 21). The matrix material of the red coating layer was carbon-based. Small numbers of titanium oxide particles consistent with titanium dioxide pigment and some calcium particles were also found (Appendix F).” We did TEM analysis also, years ago now, but we did not see any titanium in the red/gray chips! (Referring specifically to the clean-surface chips; see Figs. 6 and 7 in our published paper.) More and more, it appears that Millette was simply not looking at the same material that we studied. Why would he not measure the electrical resistivity of his red material (discussed in our paper) right off? That's what gets me – he could have saved himself a lot of time. Finally he gets to TEM analysis, and finds that he has titanium oxide! How can he claim its the same material? What a waste of time. I hope you will not make the same mistake. Sincerely, Steven E. Jones

A day later, SE Jones had received feed-back from his collaborater at BYU, Jeff Farrer (manager of the BYU TEM-lab), and appended his blog post with the following clarifications (again, only showing the parts that are of interest here):

Note added, based on comments received 9-9-12 from Dr. Jeffrey Farrer.
1. Dr. Farrer contacted Dr. Tillotson of LLNL regarding the LLNL production and ignition of nano-thermite; Dr Tillotson said the experiments were likely done in atmosphere. After publication of our paper, others have suggested that the experiments in the LLNL publication were performed in an inert atmosphere; so the picture is not clear to us at this time and further contact with the LLNL scientists is advised. It would be best to run studies in both atmosphere and in an inert gas. 2. The DSC run with the ultra-fine aluminum and iron-oxide (which did not ignite in atmosphere) may have been heated to approximately 800 degrees centigrade. Jeff will check his notes.
[...]
5. With regard to the 0.92 ratio, Jeff notes that he did not use standards for the TEM/XEDS analysis so this ratio could be consistent with unity. The interested scientist is encouraged to use standards for the TEM/XEDS so this ratio can be pinned down definitively.
6. Jeff notes that in his TEM analyses he observed “very small (nanometer-scale) Pb particles in the TEM samples” as well as strontium and chromium in small amounts. (Much of the TEM analysis was performed at higher magnification than used in the SEM analysis done in the paper.) Thus, red/gray chips which match ours will show these same elements under TEM analysis.
I (Dr. Jones) have searched Millette's plots and see no indication of strontium (Sr) or lead (Pb) in his samples, but he does report titanium (Ti) which we do not see. Thus, his samples do not appear to be the same material as what we reported on.

References

[1] 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: Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe. The Open Chemical Physics Journal, 2009, 2, 7-31

[2] Oystein: Another primer at the WTC: LaClede Standard Primer. 2012/03/16

[3] Steven E. Jones: Letter regarding red/gray chip analyses. Blog post at 911Blogger, 2012/09/08. Last retrieved 2012/09/12.

[4] Niels H. Harrit: Why The Red/Gray Chips Are Not Primer Paint. Open Letter, May 2009

[5] T.M. Tillotson et al: Nanostructured energetic materials using sol-gel methodologies. Journal of Non-Crystalline Solids 285 (2001) 338-345

[6] T.M. Tillotson and Alexander Gash: E-Mails. As quoted by "Moorea" at the JREF forum on 2012/09/09. Original mails probably written on or shortly before either 2010/07/12 or 2010/12/07.

[7] Oystein: Why red-gray chips aren't all the same. 2012/03/14

[8] James R. Millette: Revised Report of Results: MVA9119. Progress Report on the Analysis of Red/Gray Chips in WTC dust. Prepared for Classical Guide, Denver, 01 March 2012.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Too little thermite to blow up Mark Basile's chip

Abstract

Mark Basile analysed red-gray chips he found in dust samples collected in lower Manhattan very shortly after the collapse of the World Trade towers on 2001/09/11 [1.1]. In particular, he shows how vigorously his chip reacts when heated on a steel strip, producing rapid ejections of gas [1.2]. Basile suggests that this reaction is best explained by the thermite reaction, apparently affecting the organic matrix.

In an earlier blog post [2], I have shown that his data reveals that at most 4.7% by weight of the "energetic" red layer of one particular chip could possibly be stoichiometric thermite, while most of the layer (ca. 88%) must be a matrix of some unidentified polymer.

Some 9/11 Truth Movement adherents who believe that these red-gray chips are "thermitic material" claim that organic substances are typically a component of modern nano-thermite preparations, both as collateral residue of the synthesis (e.g. ca. 10% [3.1]) and as an additive to give nano-thermite explosive properties [3.2] (the organic material is rapidly turned to gas and can do volume work).

In this post, I will show that, at a mass ratio between thermite and organic matrix of about 1:19, as Basile's data implies, the chemical energy of the thermite does not nearly suffice to turn organic polymers to gas. It follows that the rapid reaction and creation of gas is powered by organic combustion and perhaps externally applied heat, not a thermite reaction.

Data

Basile's "lucky" chip #13

As I showed in [2], under the most "thermite friendly" assumptions, and taking Basile's data as it is, the red layer of his "lucky" red-gray chip #13 contains, by weight,

  • At most 4.74% ideal (stoichiometric) thermite (of the common Fe2O3+Al variety)
  • At least 87.8% solid hydrocarbon matrix, unknown chemistry. It is safe to assume that this matrix is some form of organic polymer (or a mix of polymers), that contains no Fluorine or Chlorine
  • Ca. 7.1% (the balance) inorganic compounds, assumed to be inert

Thermal properties of various polymers

The Appendix of [4] lists many combustion-related thermal properties of many organic polymers. The following values will be used in the discussion. I chose Epoxy as the reference material, since James Millette [5] has identified epoxy as the matrix material for some red-gray chips. The properties of many other non-halogenic organic polymers are in roughly the same magnitude as those of epoxy. I will state ranges for most polymers in parentheses, even though the extreme values usually are for materials that wouldn't make much sense for a matrix:

  • Onset of decomposition: Td 427 °C (250 - 570 °C, Table A-1, first column). This property describes at which temperature the matrix will beginn to decompose, a process that usually involves some charring and some release of gas. It will also show in DSC curves.
  • Ignition temperatur Tign: 427°C (271 - 600°C, Table A-1., third column). Note the ignition temperature may be influenced by association / mixing with other materials. Note also that some polymers don't ignite (don't burn with atmospheric oxygen) and just decompose
  • Enthalpy of gasification hg: 1.5 kJ/g (1.1 - 2.6 kJ/g, Table A-2, third column). This value describes how much energy must be expended to break the molecules down to gas molecules such as CO2 or water vapor during burning or decomposition - not including the heat necessary to bring the polymer to the temperature where the molecukle structure begins to break down. Note that most polymers leave behind some solid residue (char) after gasification: Epoxy 4% of its mass (column two of table A-2), others up to 75%.
  • Heat capacity cp: 1.7 J/g/K (0.93 - 2.09 J/g/K, Table A-3, third column). This value describes how much energy is expended when heating 1 g of polymer by 1 °C (or by 1 K, which is the same). This value changes with temperature, it is given for normal "room temperature" conditions, but it typically increases somewhat with rising temperature. I will consider it as constant, which is a "thermite-friendly" imprecision.
  • Effective heat of combustion HOC: 20.4 kJ/g (14.4 - 41.9 kJ/g, Table A-5, first column). This is the energy effectively released by 1 g of polymer under air and takes into account that the theoretical maximum is not reached in praxis. Epoxy for example burns with only only 75% effectiveness in experiment. This is again a "thermite-friendly" choice, as I will use the theoretical max for thermite (3.96 kJ/g) and not actual effective heat release (perhaps 3 kJ/g or less).

Discussion

Heating epoxy with thermite

To simplyfy things, let's ignore the inorganic components other than stoichiometric thermite, and mix thermite and epoxy in the proportions according to Basile's data: 4.74 g of thermite, 87.8 g of epoxy. Let's further assume we could ignite this thermite and have it react perfectly within the epoxy matrix without heating the epoxy first, and have all of the heat of reaction be absorbed by the epoxy. Could the thermite reaction turn the matrix to gas and cause the rapid gas ejections seen in Basile's video? Let's see!

4.74 g of thermite contain at most (theoretical maximum) 4.74 g x 3.96 kJ/g = 18.7 kJ

If you put these 18.7 kJ of heat into 87.8 g of epoxy, which has a specific heat capacity of 1.7 J/g/°C, you warm it by 18,700 J / 87.8 g / 1.7 J/g/°C = 125 °C, reaching ca. 150 °C. Neither epoxy nor any other polymer would come close to the start of decomposition just from this thermite reaction!

Gasifying epoxy with thermite

Of course, the assumption that the epoxy isn't already heated to the brink of decomposition isn't realistic - thermite wouldn't ignite at room temperature, and you can't heat only the thermite inside the matrix. So next up. let's assume the epoxy is already heated to its decompostion temperature of 427°C, as is the thermite - which is concidentally (???) the temperature at which Harrit e.al. [6] observed ignition of red-gray chips. How much epoxy could the reaction of 4.74 g thermite turn to gas? Let's see!

Epoxy has an effective enthalpy of gasification of 1.5 kJ/g. The energy release of our thermite, 18.7 kJ, could thus gasify 18.kJ / 1.5 kJ/g = 12.5 g of epoxy, out of 87.8 g of epoxy in our sample, that's about 14%.

What causes the gas jets and the heating of "lucky" chip #13?

Marc Basile had heated his chip on a thin (50 ┬Ám) steel strip through which he sent a constant electrical current. Here a screenshot from 40:17 in his presentation [1]:

Photobucket

This is, obviously, an important heat source. He gives is no idea how hot the strip got during the experiment. Hot enough apparently to ignite and gasify something - but potentially much hotter than just that. At the very least, this external heat infused 400 K x 1.7 J/g/K = 680 kJ/g into the probe just to heat the epoxy - thermite's theoretical max would be about 180 J/g, or 26% maximum compared with the heating strip.

It is obvious from my calculations above that thermite, even if present at all and in the maximum possible amount, contributes only minimally to the reaction of the organic matrix.

In particular: Every Joule expended on heating the matrix can't be expended to gasify it. Every Joule expended to gasify the matrix can't be used to heat any bit of matrix. And every Joule expended to do work on the matrix is lost to heat and ignite the next thermite particles to continue the thermite reaction. This material could never burn if the matrix were inert and the probe weren't externally heated. What is the use of thermite in such low concentration?

The organic matrix on the other hand is assured to release enough energy to: Heat the probe including all minerals and the gray layer, achieve full gasification, and warm its environment: of the 20.4 kJ/g effective energy density, only 1.5 kJ/g are expended on gasification, 0.7 kJ/g (1.7 J/g/K x 400 K) are expended to heat the same mass of epoxy from room temperature to ignition temperature, and then 18.2 kJ/g are left to do work on everything else

Conclusions

The three obvious and available heat sources in Basile's ignition experiment provide this much energy per gram of probe:

  1. Combustion of epoxy: 12.6 - 36.8 kJ/g (Epoxy: 17.9 kJ/g = )
  2. Heating strip: 0.7 kJ/g or more
  3. Thermite: 0.18 kJ/g or less

5% Thermite in an organic matrix make no difference. On its on, it couldn't warm the matrix even to onset decomposition, it could not destroy more than a small fraction of the polymer molecules, and it would be incapable of doing any significant work on anything outside of the chip

Whatever reaction is observed in the video of chip #13 burning, it is not driven by a thermite reaction. It is simple organic polymer combustion, helped to an unknown but probably significant degree by the external heat of the heating strip underneath.

Additional remarks

1. I believe almost all red-gray chips found in WTC dust, including Basile's chip, are some sort of red primer paint on spalled steel / steel mill. Gauging the composition of LaClede standard primer [7], I suspect that Basile's quantification of the elemental composition is a bit off the mark - I would expect to see closer to 30% inorganic materials rather than the 12% according to Basile. I suspect in particular that he underestimates the amount of iron: His red layer is red paint, and the red pigment most certainly is iron oxide. There should be closer to 10% of the element iron rather than Basile's 2.6%. However, I am only guessing here, and I can only go by the data Basile provides

I am convinced that Millette [5] and Harrit e.al. [6] looked, most closely at LaClede standard primer, which according to my own analysis [7] can be expected to contain 2.4% aluminium. Harrit's chips a-d match the expected elemental composition of LaClede paint so closely, that I would say definitely these chips contain about that much of the elememnt Al. If, hypothetically, all that Al were elemental, it could react with three times as much of the iron oxide to form 10.4% thermite - against 71.5% epoxy. This ratio, 1:6.9 thermite:epoxy, is still insufficient to either heat epoxy from room temperature to ignition point, or gasify most of it, and the heat content of the epoxy would still outnumber that of the thermite by a ratio of at least 50:1, rendering the thermite insignificant.

In further, unpublished work, I have estimated that the total Al content of Harrit e.al.'s MEK-soaked chip ([7], Fig. 14) is only 0.6%, to allow for a maximum of 2.4% thermite. It should be obvious by now that this is even less significant than the hypothetical thermite-content of Basile's chip or the chips a-d that resemble LaClede so much. It is interesting that this MEK-soaked chip, with its very low overall Al-content, is the only one where the "thermite" theorists seem to have identified any elemental Al at all.

References

[1.1] Mark Basile: 911 Dust Analysis Raises Questions. Videotaped presentation at the Porcupine Freedom Festival in Lancaster, New Hampshire on 26th June 2010, 4pm (On YouTube; 59:22 minutes, Last retrieved: June 16 2012)

[1.2] Mark Basile ignites a chip (nano-thermite) - 9/11. This szene is shown in [1.1] between between 41:43 and 42:00 minutes. (On YouTube; 0:16 minutes, Last retrieved: June 16 2012)

[2] Oystein: How Mark Basile confirms that red-gray chips are not thermitic. Posted in author's blog on March 18 2012

[3.1] T.M. Tillotson et al: Nanostructured energetic materials using sol-gel methodologies. Journal of Non-Crystalline Solids 285 (2001) 338-345

[3.2] (Currently too lazy to find an exemplary paper)

[4] Richard E. Lyon and Marc L. Janssens: Polymer Flammability. May 2005 - Final Report for the U.S. Department of Transportation and FAA. Report No. DOT/FAA/AR-05/14

[5] James R. Millette: Revised Report of Results: MVA9119. Progress Report on the Analysis of Red/Gray Chips in WTC dust. Prepared for Classical Guide, Denver, 01 March 2012.

[6] Niels H. Harrit et al: Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe. The Open Chemical Physics Journal, 2009, 2, 7-31. Figure 19 shows ignition temperatures around 430°C

[7] Oystein: Another primer at the WTC: LaClede Standard Primer

. Posted in author's blog on March 16 2012

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Monitoring Truther Petition about WTC7 at Avaaz

Updated June 8th, 2012: Uploaded Graphic "What Kawika is getting so far" with new data points for today
Updated June 10th, 2012: Uploaded Graphic "What Kawika is getting so far" with new data points for today
Updated June 14th, 2012: Uploaded Graphic "What Kawika is getting so far" with new data points up to 06/13, and new graph to compare Dream vs. Reality. Also, link to kawika's latest comment from 06/11
Updated June 19th, 2012: Uploaded Graphic "What Kawika is getting so far" and "Dream vs. Reality" with new data points up to 06/18
Updated June 26th, 2012: Uploaded Graphic "What Kawika is getting so far", "What Kawika wants" (short term till jun 25th) and "Dream vs. Reality" with new data points up to 06/25

The Poll

Over at 911Blogger, Mark Graham announced on May 7th that he has set up a petition to "Revise the U.S. government final report on the collapse of Building 7" at the independent petitioning platform "Avaaz.com". This was his second attempt, a first petition had been pulled by Avaaz days earlier. This first attempt was blogged by user "kawika" on April 24th:

MILLION SIGNATURES to be sent to NIST
Wouldn't that be nice? Making this viral is no big deal.

What kawika dreams:

In the thread to Mark's second petition (which, by the way, was also pulled by Avaaz, but reinstated a week later), kawika was enthusiastic on June 3rd (my bolding):

We are at 999
One more to break through the 1000 mark. Send this link to all your contacts. This will grow exponentially.

What does that mean - "grow exponentially"?

In a nutshell, it means that every day, the number of signers will increase. Suppose, for example, every day, on average, any 12% of the people who have already signed this petition would convince one other person to also sign. Then the number of signatures would increase by 12% in one day. If it starts today at 1000 signatures, then 12% increase would mean 120 new signatures by tomorrow, or 1120 total. A day later, we'd see 12% of 1120, or 134 new signatures, and the day after that 150 new signatures, etc.

The number of signatures would double in little more than 6 days. And then double again in another 6 or 7 days. And so forth. At that rate, the petition would indeed reach 1 million after 2 months - give or take a few days (there will be some random variations from day to day of course).

The point is: "Exponential growth" means that the %-increase from day to day stays about the same, while the number of new signatures per day increases. If you draw a chart of such exponential growth of the Petition, it would look like this after three weeks:

The things to look for that are typical for "exponential growth": The orange curve, which is the growth rate in %, remains about steady (the line is horizontal), while the blue line, which is the number of new signatures, increases from day to day (the line rises from left to right). If you run this for 2 months, it will look something like this:

You see, the orange line remains steady, the blue line gets steeper and steeper as time goes on!

What kawika actually gets:

I have been monitoring how the petition has been developing since june 3rd. It is now past june 25th, so we have seen 21 days of new signatures. They have a total of 1,468 now. And here is the actual development:

The growth rate in % (orange line) is not steady, it dropped rapidly in the first few days, almost reached 0, and has remained near 0 since. The number of new signatures per day (blue line) has declined even more, relatively speaking. It ought to be climbing! It hovered between 1 and 15 signatures per day for the last two weeks. That's background noise at Avaaz.

To compare Dream vs. Reality so far:

kawika keeps dreaming!

Amazing, but true: Just as the petition was trickling down to almost zero, Kawika still thought the petition had "momentum". Commenting at 911Blogger on June 11th:

1403--Keep Up The Momentum
Multiply. Advertize. Share widely.

LOL. Multiply they do. Unfortunately, the number of new signatures per day has been multiplying by only something like 0.75 each day.

(Update june 25th:) There has not been another comment on this failed petition since june 11th. But they set up another one on change.org ... I may blog about that at a later time.

Conclusion (FINAL)

Those truthers who expect their petitions and news and everything to go viral, grow exponentially, gain momentum, have impact, are seriously out of contact with reality. As with many of the irrelevant petitions at Avaaz and other platforms, such initiatives loose steam only days after they are first announced and spread. It appears that the Truth Movement cannot muster more than a few thousand individuals world-wide to even fill out a form on the internet.

Interestingly, this Avaaz petition has been "liked" on Facebook 580 times, twittered 75 times and forwarded by email almost 90 times, according to the Avaaz page (as of june 25th). It appears that these means of viral marketing haven't had a great impact.

I predict a continuation of this trend: Fewer and fewer new signatures every day, instead of exponential growth.

Update june 25th: I made the prediction after june 7th. It has been true on each of the three days since. Since then there have never been more than 14 signatures per day, and, on average, less than 6 per day, with small fluctuations. That's basically hugging the flat line at zero. It will struggle to reach 1500 before the end of june, and eventually fade out completely.

I won't update this blog post any longer, unless something dramatic happens.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Comparison of Gray Layer XEDS by Harrit vs. Millette

Abstract

Harrit e.al. [1] and Millette [2] both examined the gray layers of red-gray chips found in the WTC dust using XEDS. This article will show that all nine gray layers are probably oxidized steel, with no significant differences in the level of oxidation between the two publications. However, while Harrit's four samples may well be the same steel alloy, Millette's seem to be different steel alloys. Perhaps one of Millette's specimens is of identical or similar steel as Harrit's.

Introduction

I measured the XEDS graphs of gray layer material thus far published by Harrit e.al. and Millete. Here are links to the bitmaps:

Harrit e.al.: Chips (a) – (d)

Millette: 9119X0135(3)_pt2, 9119-5230M3451B-crosssec2-gray(1), 9119-5230M3451B-crosssec1-gray(1), 9119-4808L1616(3)_pt2, 9119-4795L1560(1)_pt1

The following Table lists the peak height in pixels:

Element

C

O

Fe

Al

Mn

Fe

Fe

Level


K

L-a

K-a

K-a

K-a

K-b

Edge Energy (keV)


0.54

0.84

1.49

5.9

6.4

7.08

Millette's gray layers:








9119X0135(3)_pt2

5

23

10

4

0

88

13

9119-5230M3451B-crosssec2-gray(1)

7

201

64

0

0

215

29

9119-5230M3451B-crosssec1-gray(1)

7

215

74

0

0

164

22

9119-4808L1616(3)_pt2

7

41

11

0

0

97

15

9119-4795L1560(1)_pt1

13

56

18

10

0

88

13

Harrit's gray layers:








Chip (a)

20

266

98

0

10

322

45

Chip (b)

32

335

127

0

9

326

48

Chip (c)

30

320

144

0

0

215

32

Chip (d)

33

324

140

0

11

309

43



I then computed the relative peak heights, using a formula (Individual peak height) / Sum(all peaks in the same line). So for example, in Sample Chip (a), C has a pixel height of 20px, and the sum off all pixel heights is (20+266+98+0+10+322+45), and thus relative peak height of C would be 20 / (20+266+98+0+10+322+45) = 2.63%. With this crude method, I normalize the different absolute dimensions of the graphs. Here's the result:



Element

C

O

Fe

Al

Mn

Fe

Fe

Level


K

L-a

K-a

K-a

K-a

K-b

Edge Energy (keV)


0.54

0.84

1.49

5.9

6.4

7.08

Millette's gray layers: (This line: Arithmetic mean)

3.39%

30.38%

10.05%

1.57%

0.00%

47.68%

6.92%

9119X0135(3)_pt2

3.50%

16.08%

6.99%

2.80%

0.00%

61.54%

9.09%

9119-5230M3451B-crosssec2-gray(1)

1.36%

38.95%

12.40%

0.00%

0.00%

41.67%

5.62%

9119-5230M3451B-crosssec1-gray(1)

1.45%

44.61%

15.35%

0.00%

0.00%

34.02%

4.56%

9119-4808L1616(3)_pt2

4.09%

23.98%

6.43%

0.00%

0.00%

56.73%

8.77%

9119-4795L1560(1)_pt1

6.57%

28.28%

9.09%

5.05%

0.00%

44.44%

6.57%

Harrit's gray layers: (This line: Arithmetic mean)

3.54%

38.50%

15.77%

0.00%

0.90%

36.11%

5.18%

Chip (a)

2.63%

34.95%

12.88%

0.00%

1.31%

42.31%

5.91%

Chip (b)

3.65%

38.20%

14.48%

0.00%

1.03%

37.17%

5.47%

Chip (c)

4.05%

43.18%

19.43%

0.00%

0.00%

29.01%

4.32%

Chip (d)

3.84%

37.67%

16.28%

0.00%

1.28%

35.93%

5.00%

Discussion

I notice that Millette's graphs tend to have relatively larger peaks on the high side of the energy spectrum than Harrit's: On average, the ratio between the K-alpha and L-alpha level of Fe in Millette's graphs is 47.68% / 10.05% = 4.74. In Harrit's samples, that ratio is 36.11% / 15.77% = 2.29 – less than half. Of course, both K-alpha and L-alpha represent the same amount of Fe per sample – the differences in relative peak height thus do not represent differences in relative element abundance. So in order to compare the Fe:O ratio, it would be wrong to compare O with the far-away Fe-K-alpha level. I think it is a better idea to compare O with the nearby L-alpha level of iron. These ratios are:



Sample

Ratio Fe(L-a) : O(K-a)

Millette's gray layers:

0.337

9119X0135(3)_pt2

0.435

9119-5230M3451B-crosssec2-gray(1)

0.318

9119-5230M3451B-crosssec1-gray(1)

0.344

9119-4808L1616(3)_pt2

0.268

9119-4795L1560(1)_pt1

0.321

Harrit's gray layers:

0.407

Chip (a)

0.368

Chip (b)

0.379

Chip (c)

0.450

Chip (d)

0.432



Here is a plot of the individual samples in both datasets, ordered from highest to lowest Fe:O ration within each set:

While the Fe:O ratio appears slightly lower in Millette's samples, the difference isn't major (on average, Harrit e.al. and Millette differ from each other by ~20%). In any case, Millette's gray layers would appear slightly more oxidized (higher Fe:O-ratio means lower O:Fe-ratio), assuming the relative heights of neighboring peaks can be compared across the studies. I conclude that the data provided by both Harrit e.al and Millette indicate the presence of iron that is oxidized to a comparable degree.

All samples also show some carbon. In Harrit's samples, the ratios C : Fe(L-alpha) are all within a narrow band from 0.204 to 0.252 (mean: 0.225), while Millette's scatter from 0.095 to 0.722 (mean: 0.413). I caution the reader that XEDS signals for C are very sensitive to many influences, and variation in the data doesn't necessarily reflect an equal degree of variation in abundance.

On the other hand, 2 of Millette's 5 samples show some Al, and none Mn, while 3 of Harrit's 4 samples show some Mn, but no Al.

Conclusions

It would appear that all 9 samples are consistent with oxidized carbon steel; but while Harrit may well have 4 samples from the same steel, it appears that Millette's specimens may be different steel alloys. I find it possible that the 9119-5230M3451B specimen may be the same, or a similar, steel that Harrit e.al. looked at, while the 9119X0135(3), 9119-4808L1616(3) and 9119-4795L1560(1) specimens are different steels on account of their Al-content and probably too high carbon content.

This finding

  • lends confidence to the belief that both Harrit an Millette looked at red-gray chips where the gray layer is oxidized structural steel and red the layer is mineral pigments in organic matrix

  • reinforces the suspicion that there are several different kinds of red-gray chips in WTC dust

  • highlights the need to carefully identify and distinguish these different kinds of red-gray chips before any particular conclusions or further study are contemplated.

References

[1] 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: Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe. The Open Chemical Physics Journal, 2009, 2, 7-31. Figure 6.

[2] James R. Millette: Report of Results: MVA9119. Progress Report on the Analysis of Red/Gray Chips in WTC dust. Prepared for Classical Guide, Denver, 29 February 2012. Appendix D: SEM Analysis of Cross-Sections (20 kV)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How Mark Basile confirms that red-gray chips are not thermitic

1. Abstract

Mark Basile has presented his analysis of red-gray chips he found in dust collected in lower Manhattan very shortly after the collapse of the World Trade towers on 2001/09/11 [1]. He concludes that his experiments confirm a similar but more comprehensive study published by Harrit e.al. [2]. Harrit e.al. have in turn accepted Basile's findings as confirmation of their conclusions: That the red-gray chips are thermitic in nature.

I will show that this conclusion is not warranted in any way. Instead, Basile's favorite specimen is organic by nature, with at most 1.3%, but perhaps 0%, of the heat of reaction coming from a thermite reaction, the balacnce, 98.7%-100%, from ordinary organic hydrocarbon combustion.

If this result is a “confirmation” of Harrit e.al., as 9/11 Truthers like to point out, then clearly this puts in grave doubt the affirmation that Harrit's chips were of thermitic nature.

2. Introduction

Mark Basile is a chemical engineer whose name is the second among those that Harrit e.al [2] thank for in their Acknowledgments (page 30). He held a videotaped presentation at the Porcupine Freedom Festival in Lancaster, New Hampshire on June 26th, 2010 at 4pm [1]. According to the presentation, between 30:00 and 31:26 minutes, he received a bag with “a few table-spoons” of dust collected by Janette MacKinlay in January 2008. Janette MacKinlay is also the contributor of dust sample 1 to Harrit e.al.

Basile isolated various dust particles from the sample, using a magnet and a petri dish, among them “iron based microspheres, Red/gray chips, Red chips, Rust, Wire”, also “Silicate or glassy spheres”. One particular red/gray flake, designated “#13” (he calls it “his lucky thirteen”), was photographed through a microscope, analyzed using XEDS and then heated till ignition, and the burning recorded on video through a microscope.

Basile found iron and aluminium atoms in the red layer, and concludes that the combustion he observed it probably thermitic.

3. The data

Here is the XEDS graph for chip # 13, shown at 39:30 in the video:

Photobucket

He explains that the table of weight-% values is derived from a standard software routine on the XEDS. I want to advise the reader to be careful with such derivations: The peak height or x-ray counts in XEDS spectra depend somewhat on a number of factors, such as surface and bulk geometry of the sample, and the presence or absence of materials that may tend to attenuate signals. The values aren't wrong, but remember that they come with a certain margin of error that is difficult to estimate.

Later in the presentation, between 41:43 and 42:00, Basile shows how such a red chip burns. I note his dramatic description of the event, but basically I just see something burning. So where does the heat of that reaction come from?

4. Discussion

Through most of this discussion, I will use the most “thermite-friendly” data and assumptions. By this I mean, I will take the data points where thermite ingredients were most abundant. I will assume that iron was indeed Fe2O3 and enough aluminium indeed elemental. I will assume that all of these intgredients contributed to a thermite reaction, with no losses and almost prefect execution. I will try to minimize the amount of hydrocarbons and its energy contribution so that the thermite reaction becomes as dominant as it can get.

4.1 Chemical composition - “thermite friendly”

The elemental composition that Basile shows in that table above translates into a mix of chemical compounds. Let's see what that mix looks like under the assumption that it contains the maximum amount of thermite, and minimum amount of other energetic compounds. To do so, I will use the weight-% figures in the first line, as the values for iron and aluminium, the main ingredients of thermite, are higher there.

Basile himself explains at 39:46:

In large part, it's an organic material of some sort

I agree fully: According to his quantification, more than 72% of the red layer are carbon. Basile knows that almost all of the carbon is bound with oxygen and hydrogen (and possibly other elements mixed in) to form hydrocarbons. This immediately means that more than 72% of the red layer is some kind hydrocarbon: Hydrocarbons also contain, as the name implies, hydrogen (H), which doesn't show up in an XEDS graph because it is too light. In many organic compounds, the molar (atom count) ratio of C:H is between 1:1 (for example Benzene, C6H6, which is a building block for many more complex molecules, including epoxies or TNT) and 1:2 (for example MEK, C4H8O, an organic solvant), which translates to mass ratios between carbon and hydrogen between 12:1 and 6:1. Staying on the careful (“thermite-friendly”) side, 72% of organic C in the red layer implies at least an addition of 72%/12 = 6% H by weight (increasing the sums of weights to 106%, if you will). Almost all hydrocarbons also have oxygen in their molecules, and certainly the nearly 20% of O are not bound to the metals.

Now let's try to use up as much of all the elements in inorganic compounds as we can – with the exception of aluminium, which I will assume to be totally elemental (an unrealistic assumption – Al is always oxidized on its surface):

  • All the silicon is fully oxidized as SiO2

  • All the iron is fully oxidized as Fe2O3

  • All the sulfur and some of the calcium is assumed to be contamination with gypsum: CaSO4.2H2O (this adds a tiny, almost negligible amount of H, which I do take into account)

  • All the chromium and some of the calcium is calcium chromate: CaCrO4

  • The remainder of calcium is calcium carbonate (this will remove a bit organic carbon): CaCO3

  • All the potassium is potassium carbonate (removes more C from organics): K2CO3

If you do that, you will find that of the 19.83% oxygen in Basile's table, only 4.86% can be accounted for by inorganic compounds, while almost 15% must be part of the hydrocarbon matrix; Not more than 3% of the carbon could be explained as inorganic (inert) carbonates of calcium and potassium. The hydrocarbon matrix would have C:O:H in ratios of about 12:3:1 by mass, or 5:1:5 by atom count – this assuming a hydrocarbon very poor in hydrogen. A C:O molar ration of 5:1 is not far from the 6:1 ratio that I computed for a typical cured epoxy (unpublished private work), but any commenter is invited to correct me on that point.

The most “thermite-friendly” composition of the red layer computes thus to, by weight:

  • 87.8% hydrocarbon matrix

  • 3.54% iron oxide (thermite ingredient)

  • 1.58% aluminium (elemental, thermite ingredient)

  • 7.08% other inorganic compounds

4.2 Stoichiometric thermite

The thermite reaction is

Fe2O3 + 2 Al → Al2O3 + 2 Fe

1 mol of Fe2O3 has a mass of 159.69 g, and 2 mols of Al have a mass of 53.96 g, so if you want to mix these two ingredients in ideal (what the chemist calls “stoichiometric”) proportions, you'd have to take 159.69 / (159.69+53.96) = 74.7% iron oxide, and (the balance of) 25.3% pure aluminium.

In Basile's red layer, these components appear 3.54 : 1.58, or 69% : 31%. So there is relatively too much Al – and indeed, I unrealistically assumed that all the Al would be elemental, when in fact at least some of the Al will always be oxidized, as the top few nanometers of all aluminium surfaces react with oxygen almost instantly. A few nanometers sounds like very little, but of course Basile, like Harrit e.al., claim we are dealing with nano-thermite, so a few nanometers is significant!

If you want to pair 3.54% by weight iron oxide stoichiometrically with Al, you need 3.54% * (74,7%/25.3%) = 1.20% aluminium, which means the mass fraction of ideal thermite in Basile's red layer is at most 3.54% + 1.20% = 4.74%.

4.3 Energy content of thermite and hydrocarbons

What's the maximum energy density of thermite? According to [2], page 28,

the theoretical limit for thermite alone [is] (3.9 kJ/g)

The value is actually a little closer to, but still slightly under, 4.0 kJ/g, but as no reaction actually reaches the theoretical upper limit, 3.9 is a good (and optimistic, i.e. “thermite-friendly”) value to go with.

As shown above, at most 4.74% of the red layer can consist of the thermite ingredients in perfect proportions, so this thermite would contribute only 3.9 kJ/g * 4.74% = 0.185 kJ/g of energy to the red layer, per mass of the same.

What's the energy density of the organic matrix? Since we don't know what hydrocarbon we are looking at, and since it is difficult to find tabulated values for energy density of organic polymers such as epoxies, I can only provide estimates. But it is well known that practically all hydrocarbons combust or degrade exothermally under air when heated sufficiently (after degradation,. Reactions will continue and can be quite complex). Wikipedia [3] lists a few organic materials and they energy density under air (the unit MJ/kg is the same as kJ/g, since 1 MJ = 1000 kJ, and 1 kg = 1000g):

  • 46 kJ/g: Some plastics (Polypropylene, Polyethylene), petrol, Diesel fuel

  • 37 kJ/g: Body fat:

  • 26 kJ/g: Polyester

  • 23 kJ/g: PET plastic

  • 16-18 kJ/g: Carbohydrates (sugars, starch). Wood, PVC, proteins

  • 15 kJ/g: Dry cowdung and cameldung

  • 5 kJ/g: Teflon plastic

The low value is actually fluoropolymer, in which fluor dominates over hydrocarbon, and it is a flame retardant material. I find that practically all pure hydrocarbons have an energy density of 15 keV or more, sometimes much more. It is certainly reasonable to expect that the same is true for the hydrocarbon matrix of the red layer.

With the hydrocarbon constituting 87.8% of the red layer, would contribute 15 kJ/g * 87.8% = 13.17 kJ/g of energy to the red layer, per mass of the same.

All the other inorganic compounds have been assumed to already be fully oxidized, they are inert. These 7.08% of the red layer mass would contribute nothing to a combustion, or 0 kJ/g.

To sum up: hydrocarbons would contribute 13.17 kJ/g to the red layer, and thermite 0.185 kJ/g, in the most “thermite-friendly” case, for a sum of 13.36 kJ/g. Thermite contributes 1.4% to this heat, and hydrocarbons 98.6%. In other words, hydrocarbons provide more than 71 times reaction energy than thermite.

4.4 Less “thermite-friendly” assumptions

Each time I made assumptions, I chose the values such that thermites's relative contribution to the heat realease would be maximized. I chose...

  • the data set with the higher abundance of Fe and Al: Factor 1.5

  • the highest possible energy density of thermite: Factor 1.3

  • the lowest realistic energy density of hydrocarbon: Factor 1.2-1.7

In addition, I assumed that as much aluminium would be elemental as could be possibly oxidized by the available iron oxide. There is no reason to assume that any elemental Al would be present. Taking into account these factors, hydrocarbon heat release would dominate that of thermite more realistically by a factor (71 x 1.5 x 1.3 x 1.2) ~ 166. If there is any thermite at all, that is.

Here is how I derived these three factors:

4.4.1 Basile's second line

I used Basile's first estimate of elemental fractions, with 2.63% iron (3.54% iron oxide) as the limiting factor of thermite abundance. In his second line, there is only 1.73% iron, which, if completely oxidized, would be 2.33% iron oxide. Stoichiometric mix with 0.79% pure aluminium gives us 3.12% thermite – that's less than the first case by a factor of 1.5

4.4.2 Thermite never perfect

Even if you could mix thermite stoichiometrically, it would never react 100%. Certainy, a loss of at least 30% can be expected, especially since the aluminium- and iron oxide particles must be so few and far between in the matrix, at such low abundances (well under 5% each). This gives another factor of at least 1.3

4.4.3 Hydrocarbon more energetic

I chose an energy density value for the unknown hydrocarbon on the low end of the scale of typical values. Certainly, a value between 18 and 25 kJ/g is realistic, and an even higher one possible. This gives another factor of 1.2 – 1.7 or even more

5. Conclusions

I have shown that Basile's data proves that the red layer of his red-gray chip #13 consists of at least 87.8% combustible hydrocarbons. I further showed that, assuming the most “thermite-friendly” values of everything, at most 4.74% of the same material could be ideal thermite. I finally computed that, under the same “thermite-friendly” assumptions, thermite contributes at most 1.4% of the heat when the chip is burned. Allowing for the maximum possible amount of elemental Al given the data, but more average assumptions, it turns out that the hydrocarbon matrix provides more than 100 times the heat that thermite possibly could. The conclusions are inevitable:

  • The red-gray chip is not thermitic by nature – it's combustion is dominated (99-100% of the energy output) by reactions other than than the thermite reaction

  • Basile's data presentation in no way confirms the presence of thermite

  • Basile shows that the hydrocarbons in red-gray chips can burn vigorously, invalidating any claims by Harrit e.al. that the vigor of the combustion is a sign for thermite at work

  • If Basile, Harrit e.al. as well as other 9/11 Truthers are to be believed that “Basile's results confirm Harrit e.al.'s results”, then they must no accept that these results speak clearly against a thermitic nature of the red-gray chips

  • Alternatively, 9/11 Truthers should retract their stance that Basile's data “confirms” Harrit e.al.

6. References

[1] Mark Basile: 911 Dust Analysis Raises Questions. Videotaped presentation at the Porcupine Freedom Festival in Lancaster, New Hampshire on 26th June 2010, 4pm

[2] 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: Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe. The Open Chemical Physics Journal, 2009, 2, 7-31

[3] Wikipedia: Energy Density. Retrieved on 2012/03/18