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Chemistry LibreTexts

6: Nuclear Weapons- Fission and Fusion

  • Page ID
    106746
    • 6.1: The History and Basics of Fission
      Nuclei that are larger than iron-56 may undergo nuclear reactions in which they break up into two or more smaller nuclei. This releases large amounts of energy in the form of heat, light, and gamma radiation.
    • 6.2: The Manhattan Project - Prewar
      On the lava flows of an extinct volcano 35 miles north of Santa Fe, Robert Oppenheimer, a brilliant physicist from the University of California, led the development of the first nuclear fission weapons. Chemists purified the two metals and metallurgists shaped them into forms suitable for the weapons.
    • 6.3: The Manhattan Project - Labs and Fuel
      The four major obstacles that plagued Manhattan Project Scientists/ Engineers were: Obtaining and purifying U-235 to use as weapon fuel (Oak Ridge, TN by Ernest Lawrence) Synthesizing Pu-239 to be used as an alternate weapon fuel (Hanford, WA by Glen Seaborg) Calculating critical mass of nuclear fuel to ensure a chain reaction (University of Chicago, IL by Enrico Fermi) Assembling and then testing nuclear device (Los Alamos, NM by J. Robert Oppenheimer)
    • 6.4: The Manhattan Project - Critical Mass and Bomb Construction
      The process of converting very light nuclei into heavier nuclei is also accompanied by the conversion of mass into large amounts of energy, a process called fusion. The principal source of energy in the sun is a net fusion reaction/
    • 6.5: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
      During the final stage of World War II, the United States dropped nuclear weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively. The two bombings, which killed at least 129,000 people, remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history.
    • 6.6: Aftermath of Bombings
      Sixteen hours after Little Boy was dropped, President Harry S. Truman announced publicly that a nuclear weapon had been used against Japan. Up until that time, Japanese scientists were unsure as to what had happened to their community.
    • 6.7: Fusion
      The process of converting very light nuclei into heavier nuclei is also accompanied by the conversion of mass into large amounts of energy, a process called fusion. The principal source of energy in the sun is a net fusion reaction in which four hydrogen nuclei fuse and produce one helium nucleus and two positrons.
    • 6.8: Fallout and Weapons Testing
      While attacks by terrorists have not involved the use of non-fissionable, radioactive materials, they have nevertheless increased concerns over the possibility of individuals or groups acquiring these materials. Radiological materials have the potential to be used as weapons as either radiological dispersal devices (RDD) or radiation emission devices (RED).
    • 6.9: Additional Readings and Media Fun
    • 6.E: Nuclear Weapons- Fission and Fusion (Exercises)
      These are homework exercises to accompany Chapter 3 of the Furman University's LibreText for CHE 101 - Chemistry and Global Awareness.