I'm writing a movie in which a bunch of military explosive ordnance experts destroy a turbine with thermite and the local fire chief has to work out whether it is plain $\ce{Fe2O3}$ and aluminium powder thermite or military-grade thermite with other stuff in it.

  1. How would he test for these ingredients and better be able to discern between the two?

  2. And what sort of language would he use to translate his finding?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The question is: Is there any military grade thermite ? I could imagine an addition of magnesium, but not sure, if it would make any additional effect. $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 8:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Poutnik, if they added magnesium, it would be for the purpose of making it easier to ignite. For all its reputation as a ferocious incendiary, thermite is surprisingly non-flammable. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 20:08

2 Answers 2


Typical military-grade thermite mixtures (e.g. used in incendiary hand grenades) contain a large amount of barium nitrate (e.g. 29.0 % in Thermate-TH3, see Patent No. US 6766744). It should be possible to detect the barium oxide that is left over after the fire, maybe first with a simple flame test on site followed by AAS (atomic absorption spectroscopy) in a laboratory.


According to this Wikipedia article, there has been military research into nano-thermite, which can contain molybdenum, bismuth or tungsten oxides. It would be possible to test for residues of those after the fire.

Also, "nano-thermite" sounds awesome!


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