Difference between Atomic Bomb and Hydrogen Bomb
For most people, the atomic bomb and the hydrogen bomb are pretty much the same thing with the only difference being their relative strengths. While this is partly true–with the hydrogen bomb being considerably more powerful–both types of bombs actually have a number of differences with each other, most having to do with their construction and means of detonation. Let's take a look at their other differences and similarities.
How Do They Work?
The process that is at the heart of every atomic bomb explosion is called nuclear fission, which utilizes a certain amount of uranium 235 or plutonium 239. Nuclear fission essentially involves splitting the atoms of either of those two radioactive elements.
A hydrogen bomb for its part uses a nuclear fusion process on uranium or plutonium as well. This sets off a chain reaction which results in the release of a considerable amount of energy. In some ways, hydrogen bombs can be seen as "upgraded" versions of atomic bombs.
Atomic bombs are typically set off by an explosion from a TNT-equipped device. This causes the radioactive matter to become packed tightly together, causing the individual atoms to collide with each other with explosive force. This sets off a chain reaction with more and more atoms breaking down and releasing energy, resulting in a nuclear explosion.
The hydrogen bomb on the other hand is set off not by an explosive charge but an actual atomic bomb. The elements that form hydrogen–deuterium and tritium–are packed tightly together in a manner similar to that of the atoms in a nuclear fission reaction in an atomic bomb, causing a nuclear fusion. This produces a considerably stronger explosion.
The entire nuclear fission process happens in a matter of a split-second, although the results can be pretty devastating. Anyone who has seen pictures and film footage of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan during the last days of World War II are well aware of the atomic bomb destructive force.
More powerful still is the hydrogen bomb, which is estimated to produce the explosive force of several millions of tons of TNT. These types of bobs have also been designed to expel more radioactive material into the air above the drop site. The results, as you can imagine, can be pretty destructive.
- Main energy source is either radioactive uranium or plutonium
- Often triggered by a TNT-equipped explosive device
- There is a limit to how powerful a pure atomic bomb can be
- Utilizes radioactive uranium or plutonium as a source of energy
- Usually triggered by a small atomic bomb instead of an explosive device
- Releases a lot more energy than a typical atomic bomb
- There is no limit to how powerful it can be made