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

Hot facts

That last line is pretty clever...
And it is an incendiary fact that official investigators and mainstream media have ignored that explosive fact for more than two years.

1. used or adapted for setting property on fire: incendiary bombs.
2. of or pertaining to the criminal setting on fire of property.
3. tending to arouse strife, sedition, etc.; inflammatory: incendiary speeches.

Thank you, Kevin -- very clear.

You present a cogent exposition of the facts, which cut through the myths out there like a hot knife through butter.

Well done, as always! It has been a pleasure to work with you through the years.



for your ENORMOUS contributions to this effort.

"there are a number of possible application areas that are envisioned"

I'm guessing that a conventional search for explosives would not have included nanothermite.

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.

Thanks, Kevin!

Great review of nanothermite and the mystery surrounding its explosive properties.


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.

That come back to building rigged with explosives

On purpose for demolition urban renewal. This comes up quite regularly and we had discussed it here on 911blogger. I can assure you, that such thing is BS. If there ever would be a leak nobody will ever return to work in highrisers, even, you have to ask, will they find any insurance company willling to insure a explosive rigged building? I doubt that. And: there had to be documents about it. As for any infos about insurance, lease, blueprints, you can tell your friend, they are still classified. Furthermore, the lease action, suspicious itself, was even never mentioned in any of the official reports.

There were actions taken after 9/11. Building standards were upgraded. As far as I know: Better evacuation conditions in the stairwells. 1993 the last men were evacuated nearly 20 hours after the event. The light had gone off. So the installed glimming rescue signs. A overpressure-system to beware the stairwells becaming a chimney of smoke was installed. Much was done regarding security. The plants in front of the building, to keep cars with bombs off, redundant power and water, the new back up security center called SCC in the 22th floor of the north tower was installed. A better monitoring system regarding the parking levels- with 3 independent check points. The security was given away to new companies, maybe that was the breach to get 2001 done. The word is doorway: 1993 let to new contracts for elevators (ACE) and security (Securacom), the blueprints were handed out to Tridata and maybe in such way to one of the alleged masterminds of the plot, Dov Zakheim. Certainly there is much stuff to rethink. One of the most intruiging issues I learned of is the case of FBI forensic explosive lab expert Frederic Whitehurst who was fired from the FBI because he didn't follow ordersto claim that the 1993 bomb was scientificially like reported. So, basicially you had the top FBI forensic expert on explosives who stand up to science knocked off. And nobody seems to know. By the way, 1993 was an Inside Job, too. Just google Emad Salem and Ali Mohammed and search entries in the historycommons about 1993.

Nanothermite had come up around 1995. The "new" classification stands up even today, there a tons of possibilities to arrange it. But the military would not let all immediately know about it. The sol-gel-process was first mentioned ca. 2000. The plans to explode the WTC reaching back to 1993, but the hot phase seems to start with 1998, as fas as I know.

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

Great idea! Civil court...hazardous nano-thermitic material

Part of the beauty of this idea: It assumes the presence of nano-thermitic material in the buildings. It would be difficult for the defendents to prove it was not present.

I Concur

A class action civil lawsuit by family members and responders regarding the illegal presence of this hazardous incendiary/explosive should be a priority. It could even be done by family members of first responders who have died in the aftermath of 9/11. After all these demolitions murdered 2,200 directly and nearly 1,000 more later who breathed this toxic dust. And the dust contains nanothermite.

Great job, Kevin. It's nice to have these links and references all in one place. We should all bookmark Kevin's blog as a resource. Tremendous stuff.

Response to Sitting-Bull

I was fascinated with the part of your response that read:

"The security was given away to new companies, maybe that was the breach to get 2001 done. The word is doorway: 1993 let to new contracts for elevators (ACE) and security (Securacom), the blueprints were handed out to Tridata and maybe in such way to one of the alleged masterminds of the plot, Dov Zakheim. Certainly there is much stuff to rethink. One of the most intruiging issues I learned of is the case of FBI forensic explosive lab expert Frederic Whitehurst who was fired from the FBI because he didn't follow ordersto claim that the 1993 bomb was scientificially like reported. So, basicially you had the top FBI forensic expert on explosives who stand up to science knocked off. And nobody seems to know. By the way, 1993 was an Inside Job, too. Just google Emad Salem and Ali Mohammed and search entries in the historycommons about 1993."

Would you be kind enough to provide reference/links in support?

Thank you.


that's easy

ACE contract:
Note: ACE was a small contractor, not one of the big companies in the elevator market, and went bancrupt after 9/11. The WTC was their biggest job with nearly 90% of all company revenue.

Securacom/Stratasec contract
Note the Saudi/Kuwaiti ties!

Tridata, SPC, Dov Zakheim
Google TR-76 for the WTC 1993 Tridata report on the bombing report and analysis

Zakheim a neocon:

Frederic Whitehurst:
1993 WTC case: (the other stuff on the page might by bogus, I don't know, but there is no other link on the net regarding his testimony that other FBI "experts" couldn't "tell a bomb from sewage".)

If you google on the names and issues you certainly will find more.

Thank you, Sitting-Bull

Thanks for your timely response. This will provide an excellent start point.