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Myth illogical


Your correspondent David Searle (NCE 20 June) is clearly unaware that aluminium in the massive form does not burn.

Aluminium melts at approximately 660infinityC and that is what happened to the aluminium in the two aircraft involved in the World Trade Center collapse.

The myth of aluminium burning arose after the loss of HMS Sheffield in the Falklands War. Mr Searle refers in his letter to HMS Sheffield as an aluminium ship. It was, in fact, an all-steel vessel with no aluminium superstructure at all.

With regard to Mr Searle's reference to welding, the thermite process involves the use of fine aluminium powder which behaves completely differently from aluminium in the massive form. Even very fine iron powder can be explosive but no-one suggests that steel 'burns'.

Aluminium is widely used in building and construction and its presence does not add to the hazard of fire in any way. I will be addressing a meeting of the Institution of Civil Engineers on this subject on 15 October and would welcome the presence of any interested parties.

Dr David Harris, secretary general, Aluminium Federation, Broadway House, Calthorpe Road, Five Ways, Birmingham B15 1TN

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