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Profile: Niels H. Harrit

Niels H. Harrit was a participant or observer in the following events:

A bi-layered chip from the World Trade Center dust.A bi-layered chip from the World Trade Center dust. [Source: Open Chemical Physics Journal]Significant amounts of what appears to be a highly explosive material called nano-thermite are found in samples of dust that were collected at Ground Zero shortly after the 9/11 attacks, according to a 25-page scientific study published in the online, peer-reviewed Open Chemical Physics Journal. The paper is written by nine scientists and engineers. Its lead author is Niels Harrit, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.
Four Samples of WTC Dust Examined - The authors obtained four samples of dust from the World Trade Center collapses that had been collected by New York residents near the WTC. One of these samples was collected about 10 minutes after the second tower collapsed, thus eliminating any possibility of contamination by the steel-cutting or clean-up operations at Ground Zero, which began later on.
Red and Grey Chips Found - The paper reports that the authors discovered distinctive red and gray chips in all the dust samples, which showed marked physical and chemical similarities between all samples. Most of the chips measured between 0.2 and 3 mm. The properties of these chips were analyzed using optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray energy dispersive spectroscopy (XEDS), and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC).
Key Findings - Some of the key findings and conclusions of the authors’ analysis are:
bullet The XEDS analysis found that the red chip materials contained iron oxide (rust), aluminum, silicon, and carbon in tiny plate-like structures. The existence of elemental aluminum and iron oxide together indicated that the material “may contain thermite.” [Harrit et al., 2009; Deseret News, 4/6/2009; Russia Today, 7/9/2009] Thermite is an incendiary material composed of iron oxide and aluminum powder. [Popular Science, 8/19/2004; Deseret Morning News, 4/10/2006; BBC, 7/4/2008]
bullet After igniting several red/gray chips in the DSC at 700°C, numerous iron-rich spheres and spheroids were found in the residue. This indicated that a very high temperature reaction occurred, since the iron-rich product would have to be molten to form these shapes. In several spheres, the iron content significantly exceeded the oxygen content, leading the authors to conclude that a very high-temperature reduction-oxidation reaction had occurred, specifically the thermite reaction.
bullet The spheroids’ chemical signature strikingly matched the chemical signature of spheroids produced by igniting commercial thermite, and also matched the signatures of many of the microspheres previously found in the WTC dust by some of the study’s authors.
bullet As measured using DSC, the chips ignited and reacted vigorously at a temperature of about 430°C, with a narrow exotherm, matching closely an independent observation of a known nano-thermite sample. The low temperature of ignition and the presence of iron oxide grains of less than 120 nanometers showed that the material was not conventional thermite, which ignites at around 900°C, but very likely a form of nano-thermite (which is also called “super-thermite”).
bullet The authors conclude, “[T]he red layer of the red/gray chips we have discovered in the WTC dust is active, unreacted thermitic material, incorporating nanotechnology, and is a highly energetic pyrotechnic or explosive material.” [Harrit et al., 2009]
The study also cites an April 2000 report, which confirms that “the technology to make materials remarkably fitting the characterization of the red chips” that the authors discovered was available at least 17 months before 9/11. [Gash et al., 4/10/2000; Harrit et al., 2009]

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