Nuclear weapon detonator physics

In summary, the conversation discusses the use of implosion technique in modern weapons with Pu or Pu primaries and the need for a high voltage pulse to trigger the chemical explosives. It mentions the use of special arc discharge vacuum tubes like krytrons as trigger switches and inquires about alternative methods for triggering and controlling the detonation of warheads. The discussion also touches on the classification of information regarding nuclear weapon design and the potential risks of making this information public.
  • #1
artis
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Here is a topic that I see hasn't come up at all , at least as far as I can tell.
To be short, most (all?) modern weapons with Pu or Pu primaries (in case of thermonuclear) that are in existence use the implosion technique of the primary Pu sphere, apart from the art of making this implosion very symmetrical in order to achieve the maximum yield from the device the chemical explosives before the implosion must be triggered by what appears to me to be a high voltage pulse that has a very fast pulse rise time.

I read that at least in the past , maybe even now they used special arc discharge vacuum tubes like krytrons as the switches to achieve this task, apart from that my main questions is , in what type of device they store the required electrical energy for the trigger pulse to set off the chemical implosion explosives?

The way I see it it has to be a reliable and long lasting source of electricity?
Are krytrons still used as the main trigger switches or have they tried going solid state for more modern updated warheads?
Also given that warheads need to be detonated at specific wanted moments in their descent either as single warheads or MIRV's how do they control the moment of detonation? Do they send a radio signal and the bomb has a signal receiver which upon signal arrival closes the trigger switches?
 
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  • #2
If you want details of nuclear weapon design, aren't those likely to be classified? Or any source claiming to be unclassified, actually misinformation.
 
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  • #3
@anorlunda Well they are classified and then they are not classified at the same time , because physicists that are knowledgeable in the field can realize how certain parts of a bomb might work or look like. I mean sure the exact blueprints and dimensions of a Pu sphere etc parts might be classified but the overall diagram of how a modern warhead is assembled is known in the open internet.
I believe over the years some information has also been "spilled" so much of the overall design that is out there I believe is legit and not false.
And after all , even if one knew the precise details it's a process one cannot make in his own backyard yet rogue actors/states can reproduce the process even with all the safeguards in place.

I was just interested in the trigger part as that is rarely discussed but equally interesting.
 
  • #4
Try Google "atom bomb trigger design". You might find something there.
 
  • #5
There's a reason that this topic is seldom discussed because people knowledgeable on the subject have likely signed an NDA in the form of a security clearance and are forbidden to discuss it.

Sensitive subjects such as this can fall into the wrong hands. The world would be a better place without this knowledge being public.

With that said , this thread is now closed.
 
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Related to Nuclear weapon detonator physics

1. How does a nuclear weapon detonator work?

A nuclear weapon detonator is a device that initiates the explosion of a nuclear bomb. It typically consists of high explosives, a triggering mechanism, and a small amount of radioactive material. When the explosives are detonated, they compress the radioactive material, causing a chain reaction that releases a tremendous amount of energy in the form of a nuclear explosion.

2. What type of explosives are used in a nuclear weapon detonator?

The most commonly used explosives in nuclear weapon detonators are high explosives such as RDX and HMX. These explosives are highly stable and powerful, and can be triggered by a small amount of energy, making them ideal for use in nuclear weapons.

3. How is the triggering mechanism of a nuclear weapon detonator activated?

The triggering mechanism of a nuclear weapon detonator is typically activated by an electrical signal. This signal can be sent remotely or can be set off by a timer or other type of trigger mechanism. The triggering mechanism is designed to be extremely reliable and precise, as any delay or malfunction could result in a failed detonation.

4. What role does the radioactive material play in a nuclear weapon detonator?

The radioactive material in a nuclear weapon detonator serves as a "spark plug" for the explosion. When the high explosives compress the radioactive material, it causes a chain reaction that releases a burst of neutrons. These neutrons then collide with the nuclei of other atoms, causing them to split and release even more energy in the form of a nuclear explosion.

5. How are nuclear weapon detonators designed to prevent accidental detonation?

Nuclear weapon detonators are designed with multiple layers of safety features to prevent accidental detonation. These can include arming mechanisms that must be activated before the detonator can be triggered, fail-safe mechanisms that prevent detonation if certain conditions are not met, and physical barriers that must be breached in order for the detonator to function. Additionally, rigorous testing and strict protocols are in place to ensure the safe handling and storage of nuclear weapon detonators.

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