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How does the hydrogen bomb work

Как работает водородная бомба

Thermonuclear weapons (hydrogen bomb) are a type of nuclear weapon whose destructive power is based on using the energy of the reaction of nuclear fusion of light elements into heavier ones (for example, synthesis of one helium atom nucleus from two nuclei of deuterium atoms), in which an enormous amount of energy is released.

Having the same damaging factors as nuclear weapons, thermonuclear weapons have a much higher potential explosion power (in theory, they are limited only by the number of components available). It should be noted that the frequently cited assertion that radioactive contamination from a thermonuclear explosion is much weaker than that from an atomic one, concerns fusion reactions that are only used in conjunction with much dirtier fission reactions. The term “clean weapons”, which appeared in English-language literature, had fallen out of use by the end of the 1970s. In fact, it all depends on the type of reaction used in a particular product. Thus, the inclusion of elements from uranium-238 into a thermonuclear charge (in this case, the used uranium-238 is divided under the action of fast neutrons and gives radioactive fragments. The neutrons themselves produce induced radioactivity) allows much (up to five times) to increase the total power of the explosion, but significantly ( 5-10 times) increases the amount of radioactive fallout.

Everyone heard the bad news of December - the successful tests of the North Korea hydrogen bomb are completed. Kim Jong-un didn’t fail to hint (declare directly) that he was ready at any moment to turn weapons from defensive to offensive, which caused unprecedented excitement in the press of the whole world. However, there were also optimists who claimed that the tests had been falsified: they say that the shadow of the Juche does not fall there, and that there is no visible radioactive fallout. But why is the fact that the aggressor country has a hydrogen bomb is such a significant factor for free countries, because even the nuclear warheads, which North Korea has in abundance, have not so scared anyone?

general description

Thermonuclear explosive device can be built using both liquid deuterium and gaseous compressed. But the emergence of thermonuclear weapons became possible only due to a variety of lithium hydride - lithium-6 deuteride. This compound is a heavy isotope of hydrogen — deuterium and a lithium isotope with a mass number of 6.

Lithium-6 deuteride is a solid substance that allows you to store deuterium (the normal state of which in normal conditions is gas) at positive temperatures, and, in addition, its second component, lithium-6, is the raw material for producing the most deficient hydrogen isotope, tritium. Actually, 6Li is the only industrial source for tritium production:

Как работает водородная бомба

In early US thermonuclear munitions, natural lithium deuteride was also used, containing mainly lithium isotope with a mass number of 7. It also serves as a source of tritium, but for this the neutrons involved in the reaction must have an energy of 10 MeV and above.

Thermonuclear munitions exist in the form of aerial bombs (hydrogen or thermonuclear bombs) and warheads for ballistic and cruise missiles.

The thermonuclear bomb, which operates according to the Teller-Ulam principle, consists of two stages: a trigger and a container with thermonuclear fuel.

A trigger is a small plutonium nuclear charge with a gain (Boosted fission weapon (Eng.) Russian.) With a capacity of several kilotons. The purpose of the trigger is to create the necessary conditions for initiating a thermonuclear reaction — high temperature and pressure.

The container with thermonuclear fuel is the main element of the bomb. Inside it is a thermonuclear fuel - lithium-6 deuteride - and a plutonium rod located along the axis of the container, which plays the role of a fusion of a thermonuclear reaction. The shell of the container can be made from both uranium-238, a substance that is split under the influence of fast neutrons (> 0.5 MeV), released during the synthesis reaction, and from lead. The container is covered with a layer of neutron absorber (boron compounds) to protect the thermonuclear fuel from premature heating with neutron fluxes after a trigger explosion. The coaxially located trigger and the container are poured with a special plastic that conducts radiation from the trigger to the container, and are placed in a bomb case made of steel or aluminum.

It is possible that the second stage is not in the form of a cylinder, but in the form of a sphere. The principle of operation is the same, but instead of a plutonium firing rod, a plutonium hollow sphere is used, located inside and alternating with layers of lithium-6 deuteride. Nuclear tests of spherical bombs of the second stage showed greater efficiency than the bombs using the cylindrical form of the second stage.

Как работает водородная бомба
Deuterium-Tritium fusion reaction

When a trigger explodes, 80% of the energy is released in the form of a powerful soft X-ray pulse, which is absorbed by the second stage shell and plastic filler, which turns into a high-temperature plasma under high pressure. As a result of abrupt heating of the uranium (lead) shell, ablation of the shell substance occurs and a jet thrust appears, which, together with the pressures of light and plasma, compresses the second stage. At the same time its volume decreases several thousand times, and thermonuclear fuel is heated to enormous temperatures. However, the pressure and temperature are still insufficient to start a thermonuclear reaction, the creation of the necessary conditions is ensured by the plutonium rod, which, as a result of compression, passes into a supercritical state — a nuclear reaction begins inside the container. The neutrons emitted by the plutonium rod as a result of the fission of plutonium nuclei interact with the nuclei of lithium-6, resulting in tritium, which further interacts with deuterium.

How does the hydrogen bomb work
  • A warhead before the explosion; the first step is up, the second step is down. Both components of a thermonuclear bomb.
  • B The explosive undermines the first stage, squeezing the plutonium core to the supercritical state and initiating a chain reaction of cleavage.
  • C During the splitting process in the first stage, an X-ray pulse occurs, which propagates along the inside of the shell, penetrating through the expanded polystyrene filler.
  • D The second stage is compressed due to ablation (evaporation) under the influence of x-ray radiation, and the plutonium rod inside the second stage goes into a supercritical state, initiating a chain reaction, releasing a huge amount of heat.
  • E In the compressed and heated deuteride lithium-6, a fusion reaction occurs, the emitted neutron flux is the initiator of the tamper splitting reaction. The fireball expands ...

If the container shell was made of natural uranium, then the fast neutrons produced by the fusion reaction cause fission reactions of uranium-238 atoms in it, adding their energy to the total energy of the explosion. In this way, a thermonuclear explosion of practically unlimited power is created, since other layers of lithium deuteride and layers of uranium-238 (puff) can also be located behind the shell.

What is a Hydrogen Bomb?

Как работает водородная бомба

The hydrogen bomb, also known as the Hydrogen Bomb or HB, is a weapon of incredible destructive power, whose power is calculated in megatons of TNT. The principle of action of HB is based on the energy that is produced by the thermonuclear synthesis of hydrogen nuclei - exactly the same process takes place on the Sun.

How does a hydrogen bomb differ from an atomic one?

Как работает водородная бомба

Thermonuclear fusion - a process that occurs during the detonation of the hydrogen bomb - the most powerful type of energy available to mankind. For peaceful purposes, we have not yet learned how to use it, but we adapted it to the military. This thermonuclear reaction, like that seen on stars, releases an incredible flow of energy. In atomic energy, however, it comes from the division of the atomic nucleus, so the explosion of the atomic bomb is much weaker.

First test

And the Soviet Union again outstripped many participants in the Cold War race. The first hydrogen bomb, manufactured under the leadership of the genius Sakharov, was tested at the secret site of Semipalatinsk - and, to put it mildly, they impressed not only scientists, but also western spies.

Shock wave

Как работает водородная бомба

The direct destructive effect of the hydrogen bomb is the strongest shock wave with high intensity. Its power depends on the size of the bomb itself and the height at which the detonation of the charge occurred.

Heat effect

Как работает водородная бомба

A hydrogen bomb of just 20 megatons (the size of the largest tested bomb at the moment - 58 megatons) creates a huge amount of thermal energy: the concrete melted within a radius of five kilometers from the place of testing the projectile. In the nine-kilometer radius all living things will be destroyed, neither the equipment nor the buildings will stand. The diameter of the crater formed by the explosion will exceed two kilometers, and its depth will fluctuate around fifty meters.

Fire ball

Как работает водородная бомба

The most spectacular after the explosion will seem to observers a huge fireball: the burning storms, initiated by the detonation of the hydrogen bomb, will support themselves, drawing more and more combustible material into the funnel.

Radiation contamination

Как работает водородная бомба

But the most dangerous consequence of the explosion will, of course, be radiation contamination. The disintegration of heavy elements in a raging fiery vortex will fill the atmosphere with the smallest particles of radioactive dust - it is so light that, once in the atmosphere, it can go around the globe two or three times and only then fall as precipitation. Thus, a single 100 megaton bomb blast could have consequences for the entire planet.

Tsar bomb

58 megatons - that's how much weighed the largest hydrogen bomb exploded at the Novaya Zemlya archipelago range. The shock wave circled the globe three times, forcing the opponents of the USSR once again to be convinced of the tremendous destructive power of these weapons. The merry Khrushchev at the plenum joked that the bomb was not done anymore just for fear of breaking the windows in the Kremlin.