Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Incomplete reactions in nanothermite composites



Rohit J. Jacob, Diana Ortiz-Montalvo, Kyle R. Overdeep, Timothy P. Weihs, Michael R. Zachariah


Exothermic reactions between oxophilic metals and transition/ post transition metal-oxides have been well documented owing to their fast reaction time scales (10 μs). This article examines the extent of reaction in nano-aluminum based thermite systems through a forensic inspection of the products formed during reaction. Three nanothermite systems (Al/CuO, Al/Bi2O3 and Al/WO3) were selected owing to their diverse combustion characteristics thereby providing sufficient generality and breadth to the analysis. Microgram quantities of the sample were coated onto a fine platinum wire, which was resistively heated at high heating rates (105 K/s) to ignite the sample. The subsequent products were captured/quenched very rapidly (300 μs) in order to preserve the chemistry/morphology during initiation and subsequent reaction and were quantitatively analyzed using electron microscopy, Focused Ion Beam cross-sectioning followed by Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy. Elemental examination of the cross-section of the quenched particles show oxygen predominantly localized in the regions containing aluminum, implying the occurrence of redox reaction. The Al/CuO system, which has simultaneous gaseous oxygen release and ignition (TIgnition ≈ TOxygen Release), shows substantially lower oxygen content within the product particles as opposed to Al/Bi2O3 and Al/WO3 thermites, which are postulated to undergo a condensed phase reaction (TIgnition << TOxygen Release). An effective Al:O composition for the interior section was obtained for all the mixtures, with the smaller particles generally showing higher oxygen content than the larger ones. The observed results were further corroborated with the reaction temperature, obtained using a high-speed spectro-pyrometer, and bomb calorimetry conducted on larger samples (15 mg). The results suggest that thermites that produce sufficient amounts of gaseous products generate smaller product species and achieve higher extents of completion.
Journal of Applied Physics


Nanothermite, FIB, product analysis, condensed phase


Jacob, R. , Ortiz-Montalvo, D. , Overdeep, K. , Weihs, T. and Zachariah, M. (2017), Incomplete reactions in nanothermite composites, Journal of Applied Physics, [online],, (Accessed July 18, 2024)


If you have any questions about this publication or are having problems accessing it, please contact

Created February 2, 2017, Updated October 12, 2021