Was molten metal in the basements caused by demolitions materials?

There is anecdotal evidence of molten metal in the basements of WTC buildings 1, 2, 6, and perhaps 7 in the days and weeks after 9/11. CTs often call this “molten steel,” although the metal in question was never tested and its composition is unknown. Infrared spectrometer readings taken shortly after the collapses showed temperatures near the surface of the piles of up to 1375 F: hot enough to melt aluminum.

It was at least that hot at points within the pile that were away from the hottest zones. William Langewiesche, the only journalist who was allowed to go with the engineers in their explorations beneath the debris, writes in “American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center” of a subterranean parking lot: 

"Along the north side, where the basement structure remained strong and intact (and was ultimately preserved), the fire had been so intense in places that it had consumed the tires and interiors, and had left hulks sitting on axles above hardened pools of aluminum wheels."

I don’t think the terrorists were placing thermate on car wheels. It was simply that hot.

The presence of molten metals is not an indication of planned demolition work. Explosives do not produce pools of molten metal, and incendiaries like thermite burn themselves out in seconds even in the absence of oxygen and would not be available for weeks as fuel. 

A long-lasting source of fuel was available within the well-insulated piles: the contents of the buildings. According to a study by the U.C. Davis DELTA team, the tower collapses, as destructive as they were, expended less than 1% of the potential chemical energy that was stored in building contents, oil spills, and automobiles in the WTC parking garages. 

Analysis of Aerosols from the World Trade Center Collapse Site, New York, October 2 to October 30, 2001
http://delta.ucdavis.edu/WTC%20aersols%20ACS%202003.ppt  and http://delta.ucdavis.edu/WTC.htm  

"The debris pile sat cooking for weeks, with the materials at the bottom of the pile getting incresingly hot beacuse the fires were confined and lost minimal heat to the atmosphere. As a result the fires could have easily reached temps sufficient to melt steel, not to mention most other metals found in the buildings."
(Popular Mechanics: Debunking 9/11 Myths p.41)

"It is no mystery why the fire has burned for so long. Mangled steel and concrete, plastics from office furniture and equipment, fuels from elevator hydraulics, cars and other sources are all in great supply in the six-story basement area where the two towers collapsed. 

Water alone rarely can quench this kind of fire, which will burn as long as there is adequate fuel and oxygen and as long as heat cannot escape, fire experts said." With Water and Sweat, Fighting the Most Stubborn Fire

NIST weighs in on the “Molten steel” question:

"NIST investigators and experts from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Structural Engineers Association of New York (SEONY)—who inspected the WTC steel at the WTC site and the salvage yards—found no evidence that would support the melting of steel in a jet-fuel ignited fire in the towers prior to collapse. The condition of the steel in the wreckage of the WTC towers (i.e., whether it was in a molten state or not) was irrelevant to the investigation of the collapse since it does not provide any conclusive information on the condition of the steel when the WTC towers were standing.
NIST considered the damage to the steel structure and its fireproofing caused by the aircraft impact and the subsequent fires when the buildings were still standing since that damage was responsible for initiating the collapse of the WTC towers.

Under certain circumstances it is conceivable for some of the steel in the wreckage to have melted after the buildings collapsed. Any molten steel in the wreckage was more likely due to the high temperature resulting from long exposure to combustion within the pile than to short exposure to fires or explosions while the buildings were standing."http://tinyurl.com/pqrxt

When it comes to steel, looks can be deceiving: 

"A study of the 1991 Oakland fire that burned 3,000 homes revealed the presence of melted copper in over 80% of the burned structures, and what appeared to be melted steel in over 90% of the burned structures. With respect to steel, looks can be deceiving. What appears to be melted may be merely oxidized. Interpret melted metals, particularly steel, with caution, and interpret the temperatures you infer from these melted metals with extreme caution." http://www.atslab.com/fire/PDF/IndicatorsOfTrouble.pdf 

"It is not possible to tell by visual examination alone whether a piece of steel has melted or merely oxidized." http://www.atslab.com/fire/PDF/MeltedSteel.pdf 

In addition, many conspiracists have suggested that the molten material seen in photos of the south tower while it was standing, and described in the basement levels of the rubble, could not have been aluminum, because aluminum does not glow when molten. It's true that aluminum is a dull silvery color at its melting point of approximately 660 C, but continue to heat it and it does glow, as shown in the photos below. This is especially true if the metal is adulterated with impurities, as any molten material in the WTC buildings would likely have been.

Below: Pouring an aluminum crankcase.  Source

Photo Phollies

In his paper “Why Indeed Did the WTC Buildings Completely Collapse” and in his lectures, Steven E. Jones says of the photos below, “Workers evidently peering into the hot ‘core’ under the WTC rubble.”

However, the photo at left depicts ironworkers, with their distinctive helmets, using a torch to cut metal at the base of one of the towers. The caption on the site where Jones found the photo indicates that it is of wreckage being cleared:

The other photo does not depict workers with their faces over a hole that’s as hot as a steel furnace. That would kill them. Jones' suggestion is plainly absurd. The photo’s color has been altered. The firemen are attempting a rescue or recovery using artificial light. Here’s the photo as it is supposed to look, which can be verified by checking the "Here is New York" archives, or by viewing the large reproduction of this image that's been on display at Ground Zero for many months:

Once again, scientist Steven Jones presents a deceptive picture, literally. And this work of his has been through three rounds of what, to him, passes for "peer review," according to his "Why indeed" paper, which appears in his own online "Journal of 9/11 Studies." We'll return to him later.

Thanks to Scott Sleeper for his instructive internet posts about molten metals.