The Chemistry of a Fusion Bomb


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Fusion bombs, also called thermonuclear bombs, Hydrogen bombs or H-bombs, are a weapon that obtain their massive energy from the nuclear fusion of two isotopes of Hydrogen. Isotopes are atoms of the same element with different number of neutrons in the nucleus. All atoms have a normal proportion proton/neutron, when an atom has it, it is said it is stable. But, when it has more neutrons than normal, the nucleus is heavier, more susceptible to emit radiation, unstable. Fusion bombs use this instability to create an enormous explosion that emits Gamma radiation, a really dangerous radiation. Fusion bombs try to combine deuterium and tritium, isotopes of hydrogen, with 2 and 3 neutrons respectively, and for this is needed extremely high temperatures, but it releases enormous amounts of energy.

The difference between fission bombs and fusion bombs is that fission bombs generate energy splitting large atoms into smaller ones, and fusion bombs generate their energy fusioning two small atoms into a large one.

Composition of ...

-Lithium-Deuterium (Fusion fuel)


-Uranium 235 or Plutonium 239 enriched (90% 235U or 239Pu)

-High Explosives

-Small pelt of polonium and beryllium, separated by foil (initiate the fission)

-Casing (aluminium and lead)

-Polystyrene foam

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

The two main ingredients are deuterium and uranium .

Deuterium, with symbol D or 2H, also called heavy hydrogen, it is one of the stable isotopes of hydrogen. Its nucleus is composed by one proton and one neutron, making it more heavy and, therefore, more unstable. It composes the 0.0156% of the all the natural hydrogen find in Earth, it is found mostly in the oceans.

Uranium, with symbol U, is the 92nd element of the periodic table. It is metallic and his nucleus is composed by 92 protons and 143 neutrons, making it a heavy element, really unstable, therefore it is susceptible of radiation decay.

Chemistry's Role

Deuterium is made by taking large amounts of water and make electrolysis (method of using a direct electric current to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction) over and over again until you start to actually hydrolyze the heavy water (D2O) rather than regular water, when this is done the result is pure deuterium.

Uranium is obtain in mines. When uranium is mined, it consists of about 99.3% Uranium-238 or 238U, 0.7% Uranium-235 or 235U, and < 0.01% Uranium-234 or 234U, so it is sent to an enrichment plant. In the gaseous diffusion enrichment plant, where they divide the 235U from the other


Background Research

The steps of the detonation are:

1-The explosives that are surrounding the Lithium explode,creating amount of heat.
2-This heat create a fission of the Lithium, who it is converted in Tritium, or Hydrogen-3 (it is an hydrogen atom with a atomic mass of 2, 1 proton and 2 neutrons). This fission emits amount quantities of energy( radiation) which are spread for all the bomb.
3-This energy is bounced in the walls of the bomb and goes to the nucleus.
4-The energy released start the fusion of the nuclear fuel of the bomb (Uranium-238 or Plutonium 239).
5-The fusion of the bomb releases incredibles amounts of energy in form of a great explosion and emits a lot of radiation (gamma radiation,really dangerous for your body).


About the Author
Javier Adarraga is a senior at Billings Senior High School. He is from A Coruña, Spain. He loves knowledge and he enjoys Chemistry. He also runs Track and Field and Cross Country and plays soccer, tennis and golf.