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I was searching on reddit for powerful theoretical weapons, until I came across an interesting response:

"Confine a bunch of hydrogen ions in a very small space. Then release them. The force they experience due to electrostatic repulsion is mind-bogglingly big, so they're accelerated to very near the speed of light almost instantaneously.

So you have a sphere of plasma expanding outward near C. The rest of the picture basically paints itself. They exchange momentum with air molecules, the air molecules go fast and bang into other air molecules and pretty soon (like within microseconds) you've got a big expanding fireball. It would probably generate a mushroom cloud just like a nuke, too. The difference is that there wouldn't be fallout, although I haven't really crunched the numbers to figure out if fusion might take place, which would release some radiation. Like I said, the numbers you get from this are gargantuan, so it's very possible.

As far as pound-for-pound comparison goes, depending on how you approximate it, 10 grams of hydrogen confined in a 1cm sphere could yield anywhere from 100 kilotons to 1.5 megatons. The problem, I guess, would be figuring out how to ionise all that hydrogen before your apparatus blows itself apart, which incidentally, is also a problem with nuclear weapons. They only react a little bit of their fuel before they churn themselves into a puff of radioactive vapor.

This is all based on some calculations I did when I was bored a couple weeks ago. I didn't save any of the numbers and I can't use WolframAlpha right now and re-do it, but if you want to crunch them again yourself all you need is Coulomb's Law, F = ma, and the formula for kinetic energy at relativistic speeds, which I can't remember off the top of my head."

I wonder how all that hydrogen can be ionised, or how it can be contained, or if the concept even works at all.

RE: I personally think that to ionise the hydrogen, perhaps an electron capture can be used, maybe with an electron flash. And to store the ions, maybe an ultrastrong material, such as Alexander Bolonkin's Nuclear Matter can be used.

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    $\begingroup$ The ionization, at least, won't be a problem as it will happen as a trivial side-effect of the compression. The energy needed to compress hydrogen (or anything, really) as much as you describe is many orders of magnitude greater than the binding energy of the electrons to the nuclei, so when the pressure is released you have instant ions. $\endgroup$ – Mark Olson Nov 25 '19 at 1:49
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It works, but...

Here's the thing. Energy isn't free. Yes, technically, if you gather a bunch of hydrogen ions (or protons, really) together, than the electric force will repel the protons at near relativistic speed (though probably never exceeding it, thanks to general relativity, according to XKCD). Assuming you've got enough of them, of course. That bubble will be turned into a weapon of mass destruction, which gram for gram, easily exceeds that of nuclear weapons.

But it takes energy to put them all together and keep them there to. Ionizing hydrogen isn't that difficult. Ionizing a lot of hydrogen and keeping the electrons from reacting is. At a certain point, the hydrogens are just going to start stripping electrons from anything surrounding them, no matter how strong the material is, so you'll need to start storing your cache of ionized hydrogens inside some kind of electric field which repels normal matter from your batch of hydrogens. And also the field will need to keep them contained. And that's when it gets weird. Essentially, you'll need to generate a field that's capable of containing the force trying to keep the ions apart - which means that it more or less is capable of a similar output as the proton-condensed matter, and seeing as it will be destroyed when its deactivated, I'd just skip the protons and use the field. If it generates that level of magnetic force, you can skip ionizing in the first place and just condense plain old normal matter, than let that fly apart at relativistic speeds.

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    $\begingroup$ So, more or less the same problem as antimatter. $\endgroup$ – CYCLOPSCORE Nov 25 '19 at 4:08
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    $\begingroup$ That's not a bad way to look at it. It will take a much stronger electric field, because antimatter just needs to be kept from normal matter, whereas proton-bomb will need to be kept from expanding at relativistic speeds. But creating antimatter takes much more energy than creating a hydrogen ion. Not sure which is worse, but they both take absurd amounts of energy. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Nov 25 '19 at 4:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Halfthawed The antimatter weapon probably wins because you can leave more of the equipment behind while carrying the charge to the target. $\endgroup$ – Cadence Nov 25 '19 at 7:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Cadence True, but the proton-bomb has greater range. It's an interesting trade off. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Nov 25 '19 at 18:20
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There are two major problems with this weapon. (And pretty much any "I'm going to do fancy things to these molecules" weapons that don't end up involving fusion.)

Problem 1 is the energy required. Think of the protons (that's what hydrogen ions are, bare protons) as a spring. If they're just sitting there, they won't have any kind of repulsive force. You need to compress them together - that requires putting them under a pressure similar in scale to the force you're getting out of the whole thing. And, in order for them the protons to just fly apart as you're trying to compress them, you need a material sturdy enough to withstand that enormous pressure.

Really, what you've got there is a compressed-air cannon, except obviously with hydrogen. As with a typical airgun, your limiting factors are how much energy you want to put into compression and how much pressure you can withstand before it goes off.

Problem 2, of course, is that you're not going to want to be anywhere near this when it goes off. You're talking about taking this delicate, probably heavy pressure vessel full of hypercompressed hydrogen and then launching it in a missile at some distant point, and hoping it doesn't go off first.

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You may need to replace Hydrogen with a more electropositive ion. You can go ahead and use sodium, and for a more dramatic effect, even Caesium. Those materials react spontaneously with the water and become so positively charged that the atoms have gained sufficient charge to repel each other and the chunk of Caesium flies apart, literally.

The phenomena you describe is called a Coulomb explosion. Your protagonist (or antagonist), throws a chunk of Caesium into the water. The Coulomb effect will break the chunks to pieces. The release of flammable hydrogen into the air adds-up to the effect.

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