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Most of us have some degree of knowledge as to what fusion is… that it could solve the energy problems of the world and that star trek/wars loves it. What I aim to do in this post however,  is give you a deeper understanding of how humans can harness this furnace of stellar energy, for glorious benefit, and also unspeakable evil.

What is fusion

Fusion is the process by which two small atomic nuclei are forced together to form one larger nucleus. The nucleus is the tiny centre of an atom, less than a billionth of the volume, yet comprising 99.99% of the atoms mass, famously described as a fly in a cathedral. As nuclei get more massive, starting with hydrogen, the binding energy increases, until iron is reached, element number 26, then the trend reverses. The result of this is that energy can be released by starting with a small nucleus (usually H) and moving toward Fe, or coming down from a huge nucleus (U, Pu) toward iron. The former process is fusion (joining), and the latter fission, (splitting).

binding-e-graphFig 1.1, the binding energy of the known elements

Much greater energy is liberated through fusion than fission, (a substantial portion of its mc^2 *) than with fission. However, there is a problem. fission is easy, it only requires that enough of a large unstable nucleus such as uranium be present in a small space and a reaction will occur. However, if this were to occur with hydrogen, the Hindenburg would have made a MUCH larger boom. The difference arises in the nuclear process. Fusion requires the two nuclei to get very close together, and each nucleus is a huge source of positive charge as it contains at least one proton. As anyone who has used magnets will know, like charges repel. This repulsion must be overcome by allowing the atoms to smash together at enormous speeds. Temperature is just a macroscopic term for the average speed of atoms or molecules in a substance. Thus, to fuse nuclei, the fusing material must be hot. Very hot. Under normal conditions, at least 10^6 Kelvin. This can be achieved but is very hard to control, which is why sci-fi loves “cold fusion”, an  improbable concept with current technology. Experiments have shown that fusion is viable but fusion power stations are a long way down the pipeline.

Fusion power is especially desirable as it can be generated from pure water, and produces little or no radioactive waste, in contrast to current nuclear power stations, whose reactors consume hazardous fissile materials and release tonnes of highly radioactive sludge which must be disposed of. Our only current use for fusion is in weaponry, a field in which it excels. The largest fusion weapon ever detonated was the Soviet Czar, a 100 Mt warhead which was scaled down to 50 Mt by using a lead damper in place of the recommended uranium. This has now been shown to be an important modification, as a 100 Mt blast would have had grave consequences for life in the wider area around the test site.


Fig 1.2, The mushroom cloud of the Czar from the air… The cloud measured 110 km high by 40 wide.

The huge temperatures required to fuse deuterium and tritium, (heavier isotopes of hydrogen which contain more neutrons) are achieved using a fission primary, a conventional fission charge which wraps around the fusion based centre. The fission bomb detonates first and generates temperatures of two million Kelvin, which ignite a fusion reaction in the core of the device. the result is a huge blast which can equal the chemical energy of a cube of TNT 600m to a side, and with a mass of one billion kilograms. the surrounding area, for many kilometres is flattened and the soil vapourised, leaving bare polished rock. even outside the killzone, flash burns, flying glass lacerations and radiation exposure would kill many. These weapons have such unearthly power that they detected around the world as a moderate earthquake. No human being has ever been intentionally killed using fusion, and the day on which that changes, may well be the last day of civilized human existence for many years, possibly forever.

  • The mc^2 of a fuel is the maximum energy obtainable from that amount of matter. It is given, in joules (J) by the mass in kg, multiplied by the square of the speed of light in m/s (3*10^8 ).

World’s,Galaxy’s and Universe’s not necessarily non nuclear most explosive known substances

1st Pure antimatter

Pure antimatter produces a nuclear strength yield with just 4 ounces! Antimatter also converts itself and an equal mass of regular matter into pure energy in accordance with E=mc2 with no residual harmful radiation. However we currently only have the capacity to make astonishingly small amounts of antimatter in particle accelerators (one billionth of a gram). This scarcity makes it the worlds most expensive substance at $62.5 trillion per gram! Unfortunately the dark side of this bomb is that a suicide bomber could destroy a city with a grenade sized device and a planeload of these mini bombs could, in theory, destroy an entire continent! Epicness rating 10/10. Plausibility rating 2.5/10

2nd Francium metal

This bomb would use the violent reaction of francium,the most powerful alkali metal, with water. Unfortunately this bomb will never be realized as francium is one of the most unstable elements with a half life of just minutes. Only a few grams exist on Earths crust at any one time. As it decays it produces massive levels of radiation anyway so the bomb would be much more effective at killing its makers than those it would be used against! Epicness rating 9/10 Plausibility rating 0.0000000000000000000000000000001/10.

3… Hydrogen Helium fusion bomb

This is quite an effective method of creating energy though it still uses just a small percentage of the viable mass. Hydrogen’s heavier isotopes, deuterium and tritium are reacted together at extremely high temperatures to create helium and a large amount of energy. The temperatures required are so high, (several million degrees K) that a conventional warhead is required within the fusion bomb to achieve them. Yields are much greater than other nuclear devices. Epicness rating 8.5/10 Plausibility rating 10/10

4… Nuclear bomb.

Just your average bog standard nuke, Two sub-critical masses of fissile material are forced togethe,r often using “gun and target” mechanisms, the result being a super-critical fissile mass, where there is each disintegration of a nucleus spawns an average of more than one other. This causes a chain reaction and splits the bombs shell, releasing unholy terror on a radius of several kilometres.  Epicness rating 8/10 Plausibility rating 10/10.

5… Octanitrocubane  

  This is really scary stuff. It cannot yet be easily manufactured but could easily have twice the power of TNT (trinitrotoluene). It can detonate absolutely anywhere due to its non reliance on outside chemicals such as oxygen, to detonate. This explosive could easily become the basis of future underwater and even extraterrestrial warfare! Epicness rating 5/10. Plausibility rating 9/10.

Just another ill add in at the end here is picric acid. Though not extremely efficient in yield, this explosive, in crystalline form, is extremely unpredictable. It explodes in response to heat shaking or impact. Thus it is generally not used very much. A sombre demonstration of this volatility was realized at the beginning of the twentieth century when a shipload of picric acid and benzene collided with another ship in Halifax harbour. The port area of the city was levelled by a series of huge blasts as the thousands of tonnes of munitions detonated simultaneously, throwing pieces of ship for miles in every direction. Epicness rating, 6/10, plausibility rating, fairly obvious

Here is a link to Here is a link to wikipedia antimatter