Thermite: Towards the rapid destruction of hard disk(s)

A friend of mine, a very paranoid and drama-loving fellow, asked me recently for some suggestions on how to rapidly destroy a computer hard disk. He wanted to destroy his hard drive banks "if police came to get him". I don't know what possible reason the police may have for wanting him and his hard drives but being the dramatic fellow he is, I know he'd want to do it purely for the drama alone. Anyway, my solution to him was simple and most importantly, very dramatic: thermite!

A thermite reaction is an exothermic chemical reaction that generates temperatures reaching upto 2500 °C - more than enough to melt the entire hard drive and entirely destroy the magnetic lining of the platters. Thermite consists of aluminium and iron(III) oxide (better known as rust!). The two is to be mixed in a ratio of approximately 8 or 9 parts iron oxide to 3 parts aluminium. The aluminium needs to be powdered and can be obtained by filing/sanding soft drink cans or aluminium tubing. The iron oxide (rust) can be shaved off from a rusting iron rod and should be in powder form as well. I've successfully tried with aluminium filed off aluminium tubing that I had purchased for building an antenna and rust collected from a bunch of iron nails that had been rotting away.

Ignition is the most important part for getting the thermite reaction going and isn't an easy step for the method described above. The easiest way, which I recommended to my friend, was to use a magnesium strip. They aren't available in Male' but can be ordered online or purchased from abroad easily. Alternatively, I suggested, convince a chemistry student at CHSE to get some - they often use it as part of their weekly practicals and throw out a load of half-used strips to the bin anyway!

Finally, the thermite mixture can be placed in a little container and a piece of magnesium strip neatly stuck into it. The container can be placed on top of the hard drive with the magnesium strip accessible and ready for lighting when required! Once ignited, nothing will stop the reaction and extinguishers - be it water, foam or CO2 - will miserably fail too.

Needless to say, the prospects of having his hard disks melted in a fiery fire as cops watch helplessly really excited my friend...

Further info:
- Watch some thermite reactions

Note: Thermite is not fun play - stand well away and avoid using large amounts. Do be careful if you are curious enough to experiment ;-)


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