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How the hydrogen bomb works

Как работает водородная бомба

A thermonuclear weapon (a hydrogen bomb) is a type of nuclear weapon whose destructive power is based on the use of the energy of the reaction of nuclear fusion of light elements into heavier elements (for example, the synthesis of one nucleus of the helium atom from two nuclei of deuterium atoms), at which a huge amount of energy is released.

Having the same damaging factors as nuclear weapons, thermonuclear weapons have much more possible explosion power (theoretically, it is limited only by the number of components available). It should be noted that the often mentioned statement that radioactive contamination from a thermonuclear explosion is much weaker than from an atomic explosion concerns synthesis reactions that are used only in conjunction with much more "dirty" fission reactions. The term "clean weapons", which appeared in the English-language literature, by the end of the 1970s, was out of use. In fact, it all depends on the type of reaction used in a particular product. Thus, the inclusion in the thermonuclear charge of elements from uranium-238 (while the used uranium-238 is divided by the action of fast neutrons and gives radioactive fragments, the neutrons themselves produce induced radioactivity) allows a much (up to five times) increase in the total explosion power, but also significantly 5-10 times) increases the amount of radioactive fallout.

Everybody heard the unpleasant news of December - North Korea successfully completed its hydrogen bomb tests. Kim Jong Eun did not fail to hint (bluntly) that he is ready at any time to turn weapons from defensive to offensive, which caused an unprecedented stir in the press around the world. However, there were also optimists who declared about the falsification of trials: they say, and the shadow from the Juche does not go down there, and there is something that can not be seen in the radioactive fallout. But why is the presence of a hydrogen bomb in the aggressor country so important for free countries, because even nuclear warheads, which North Korea has in abundance, did not frighten anybody so?

general description

A thermonuclear explosive device can be constructed both with the use of 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.

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

Как работает водородная бомба

In the early thermonuclear ammunition of the United States, deuteride of natural lithium, mainly containing lithium isotope with mass number 7, was also used. It also serves as a source of tritium, but for this the neutrons participating in the reaction should have an energy of 10 MeV and higher.

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

The thermonuclear bomb operating on the Teller-Ulam principle consists of two stages: a trigger and a container with thermonuclear fuel.

Trigger is a small plutonium nuclear charge with amplification (Boosted fission weapon) that is several kilotons. The purpose of the trigger is to create the necessary conditions for initiating a thermonuclear reaction-high temperature and pressure.

A container with thermonuclear fuel is the main element of a bomb. Inside it there is a thermonuclear fuel - lithium-6 deuteride - and a plutonium rod located along the axis of the container, which acts as a fuse of a thermonuclear reaction. The shell of the container can be made both from uranium-238 - a substance that splits under the action 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 thermonuclear fuel from premature heating by neutron fluxes after the explosion of the trigger. The co-located flip-flop and the container are poured with special plastic, which conducts radiation from the trigger to the container, and are placed in the bomb building made of steel or aluminum.

A variant is possible, when the second stage is made not in the form of a cylinder, but in the form of a sphere. The principle of operation is the same, but instead of the plutonium ignition rod, a plutonium hollow sphere is used that is inside and interleaved with layers of lithium-6 deuteride. Nuclear tests of bombs with a spherical shape of the second stage showed more efficiency than in bombs using the cylindrical shape of the second stage.

Как работает водородная бомба
Reaction of fusion of deuterium and tritium nuclei

When the trigger is blown, 80% of the energy is released as a powerful soft X-ray pulse, which is absorbed by the second stage shell and plastic filler, which is converted to high-temperature plasma under high pressure. As a result of the rapid heating of the uranium (lead) shell, ablation of the shell material occurs and a reactive thrust appears, which, together with the pressures of light and plasma, compresses the second stage. At the same time, its volume decreases by several thousand times, and thermonuclear fuel is heated up to huge temperatures. However, the pressure and temperature are still insufficient to launch a thermonuclear reaction, the creation of the necessary conditions provides a plutonium rod, which, as a result of compression, goes over into a supercritical state-a nuclear reaction inside the container begins. The neutrons emitted by the plutonium rod as a result of fission of plutonium nuclei interact with the nuclei of lithium-6, resulting in tritium, which then interacts with deuterium.

How the hydrogen bomb works
  • A Warhead before the explosion; The first step at the top, the second step at the bottom. Both components of a thermonuclear bomb.
  • B The explosive undermines the first stage, compressing the core of the plutonium to the supercritical state and initiating the chain reaction of the cleavage.
  • C During the splitting in the first stage, an X-ray pulse is transmitted, which propagates along the inner part of the shell, penetrating through the expanded polystyrene filler.
  • D The second stage is compressed due to ablation (evaporation) under the influence of X-rays, and the plutonium rod inside the second stage passes into a supercritical state, initiating a chain reaction, releasing a huge amount of heat.
  • E In the compressed and heated lithium-6 deuteride, a fusion reaction occurs, the emitted neutron flux initiates the tamper-splitting reaction. The fireball expands ...

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

What is a Hydrogen Bomb

Как работает водородная бомба

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

How does a hydrogen bomb differ from an atomic bomb?

Как работает водородная бомба

Thermonuclear fusion - the process that occurs during the detonation of a hydrogen bomb - is the most powerful type of energy available to mankind. For peaceful purposes we have not yet used it, but we adapted it to the military. This thermonuclear reaction, similar to that observed on the stars, releases an incredible flow of energy. Atomic energy is obtained from the fission of the atomic nucleus, so the explosion of an atomic bomb is much weaker.

The first test

And the Soviet Union again outstripped many participants in the Cold War. The first hydrogen bomb, made under the guidance of the brilliant Sakharov, was tested on the secret test site of Semipalatinsk - and they, to put it mildly, 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, high-intensity shock wave. Its power depends on the size of the bomb itself and the altitude at which the detonation of the charge occurred.

Thermal effect

Как работает водородная бомба

A hydrogen bomb of only 20 megatons (the size of the largest currently tested bomb - 58 megatons) creates a huge amount of thermal energy: concrete melted within a radius of five kilometers from the site of the test projectile. In the nine-kilometer radius, all living things will be destroyed, neither the machinery nor the structures can stand. The diameter of the funnel, formed by the explosion, will exceed two kilometers, and its depth will fluctuate about fifty meters.

Fire ball

Как работает водородная бомба

The most spectacular after the explosion would seem to observers a huge fireball: flaming storms initiated by the detonation of a hydrogen bomb will support themselves, involving more and more combustible material in 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 whirlwind will fill the atmosphere with minute particles of radioactive dust - it is so light that if it gets into the atmosphere, it can circumnavigate the globe two or three times before falling out in the form of precipitation. Thus, one 100-megaton bomb explosion could have consequences for the entire planet.

Tsar bomb

58 megatons - that's how much the largest hydrogen bomb was blown up, blown up on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago. The shock wave three times rounded the globe, forcing the opponents of the USSR once again to be assured of the enormous destructive power of this weapon. Merry Khrushchev joked at the plenum that the bomb was not done anymore only because of fears of smashing the windows in the Kremlin.