FEMA Steel

The Claims

Twin Towers

Evidence of thermite incendiaries found by FEMA in steel samples


FEMA finds rapid oxidation and intergranular melting on structural steel samples

Both the links are to the same page at 911 Research, and concern the same piece of steel.

The Pieces of Steel

In Appendix D of their World Trade Center Building Performance Report, FEMA describes the collection process of steel pieces from Ground Zero. Among FEMA’s objectives was collecting badly burned pieces of structural steel, as well as connections and bolts in any condition, from WTC 7. This proved to be difficult, since the volunteer collection efforts began in earnest in November 2001 (other than some October trips to the Jersey City site, the main collection visits began no earlier than November 16).  Larry Silverstein announced on November 8, 2001 that the WTC 7 site had already been cleared.

Two pictures in Appendix D of the FEMA report are of WTC 7 metal. One is identified as a WTC 7 W14 column tree with beams attached to two floors (Figure D-14) , and the other (a close up on a damaged seat connection) is a fire-damaged W14 column from WTC 7 (Figure D-17). Both pictures are reproduced here, and neither appear to have been cut by any device at all, let alone a thermite device. On the contrary, the beams look to be torn and wrenched apart, what you’d expect from a building that collapsed under the force of gravity alone.

Appendix C of the FEMA report also excites the curious mind. Here the microstructures of two samples of corroded WTC steel are examined. The first (Sample 1) appears to be from WTC 7, the second from one of the Twin Towers. Both have been attacked by some eutectic solution, causing the severe corrosion seen in the pictures and the intergranular melting seen under the microscope. However, the temperature of the eutectic in both cases was easily determined by the properties of the two pieces of steel. Sample 1’s eutectic approached 1,000ºC (meaning it did not go over that limit), and Sample 2’s stayed within a range of 700-800ºC. Both are extremely high temperatures, but since thermite burns far hotter than even this, thermite is conclusively ruled out as a source for this corrosive attack.

Sample 1 now resides at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. It has never been missing, contrary to a popular 9/11 Truth poster announcing it as such. The first mention of Sample 1 is actually in the December 2001 JOM article by the same authors of the FEMA Report’s Appendix C. Even then, the relatively low temperatures of the eutectic (as compared to thermite) was known.

The 911 Research page does not mention the temperature ranges that these pieces of steel suffered. By an odd twist of fate, AE911Truth does by reproducing the first two pages of Appendix C on slide 216 of their current slideshow (accessed August 12, 2010). Barely legible in the lo-res version, but quite visible in the hi-res, is the statement on the second page that Sample 1 was affected by temperatures that approached 1,000ºC. Yes, AE911Truth has included the evidence that disproves their hypothesis of thermite arson in their own presentation, much like they reproduce pictures of pancaked floors of the fallen structure while continuing to ask to see any.

Where Did The Sulfur Come From?

The eutectic consisted “primarily of iron, oxygen, and sulfur” according to Appendix C. Ronald Biederman, one of the authors of Appendix C, describes his own guesses to the source of the sulfur in an WPI alumni magazine article frequently quoted by controlled demolition advocates:

“The important questions,” says Biederman, “are how much sulfur do you need, and where did it come from? The answer could be as simple–and this is scary- as acid rain.”

Have environmental pollutants increased the potential for eutectic reactions? “We may have just the inherent conditions in the atmosphere so that a lot of water on a burning building will form sulfuric acid, hydrogen sulfide or hydroxides, and start the eutectic process as the steel heats up,” Biederman says. He notes that the sulfur could also have come from contents of the burning buildings, such as rubber or plastics. Another possible culprit is ocean salts, such as sodium sulfate, which is known to catalyze sulfidation reactions on turbine blades of jet engines. “All of these things have to be explored,” he says.

Another source of sulfur could have been the “gypsum wallboard used for interior partitions.” Until these common-sense sources of sulfur for the eutectic have been ruled out, there is no need to consider more exotic sources like thermate, especially since the forensic science rules this substance out.

Where Did The Piece Come From?

Controlled demolition advocates also find fault in NIST for not using Sample 1 in their own report on WTC 7. NIST gives three reasons for this omission:

  • There’s no direct evidence that Sample 1 came from Building 7 at all
  • If it did, there’s no indication where Sample 1 was in the structure
  • It can’t be said with certainty if the corrosive attack happened before the collapse or after

As it turns out, there are good reasons to say that Sample 1 came from WTC 7. As Jonathan Barnett explained in the BBC program “Conspiracy Files: The Third Tower“:

This was the size of steel that they used in the construction of Tower 7. They didn’t use this particular kind of steel in Towers 1 or Towers 2. So that’s why we know its pedigree.

But NIST’s second point stands. There is no indication whatsoever where in the building the piece came from. Since NIST was building a rigorous computer model, checking it against verifiable evidence, Sample 1 was of no scientific use for them. Videos and pictures of the fire spreading helped them to determine the spread of the fire in their modelling, but there was no place Sample 1 could directly be applied.

When Did The Corrosive Attack Occur?

And the third point also stands. If the corrosive attack happened after the collapse, then the damage of Sample 1 gives no actual insight into the sequence of events that led to the collapse. If there is any assumption to be made of when the corrosion occurred, the scientific evidence points to after, as Professor Sisson explains further in the BBC program:

Sisson: Well, it was attacked by what we determined was a liquid slag. When we did the analysis, we actually identified it as iron — a liquid containing iron, sulfur, and oxygen. You can see what it does is it attacks the grain boundaries, and then this bit would have eventually fallen out, and it would have continued the attack.

Narrator: Professor Sisson says that it didn’t melt. It eroded. The cause was those very hot fires in the debris after 9/11 that cooked the steel for weeks. The sulfur came from masses of gypsum wallboard that was pulverized and burned in the fires.

Sisson: I don’t find it very mysterious at all — that if I find steel in this sort of high temperature atmosphere that’s rich in oxygen and sulfur, this would be the kind of result I would expect.
There is no scientific reason, forensic or otherwise, to look beyond the conditions of the debris pile to explain the damage observed in Sample 1.