Could a physical (or energy based) deployment method allow for the destruction of complex molecules into single molecules or smaller particles? Specifically, I am looking for a finite duration effect. The idea is simply to break down complex matter but not remove it from existence if possible. The effect must last for a 5-10 second time frame, I'm almost looking for molecular decay, but not radioactive decay.

Please assume tech level is not capped for this question, I'm looking more at the science part.

I considered the usage of anti-matter to break materials down, however most of my research shows anti-matter simply creating gamma rays in this manner.

I moved towards the localized negation of the Coulomb force, or at least the reversal but since I'm no rocket scientist, I didn't get far.

Finally I postulated reversing the electrons that hold together bonded atoms, hopefully forcing them to split.

I just don't know if any of this is possible, or if I'm looking at it from the wrong angle.

Edit: Considering hitting the target with energy to achieve the result, would a selective method, focusing on certain compounds be feasible? Perhaps by using certain charged electrons or something.

  • $\begingroup$ If I remembered correctly Dr Manhattan (DC Comic's character from Watchmen) had his instrinsic field(stuff of friction) removed so in your case if you somehow managed to gather lots of energy that can cause destructive interference with electromagnetism and weak nuclear force, your target will turn out just like Dr Manhattan except he becomes schrodinger Na'vi (Avatar 2009). $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Aug 14, 2015 at 4:49
  • $\begingroup$ This sounds a lot like the MD Device from Ender's Game, which created a field that interfered with the sharing of electrons within atoms. It was used as a weapon for space battles, and when Ender asked what would happen if it was used on a planet, he was told it would destroy the entire planet, because breaking down bonds with it causes a chain reaction which perpetuates the MD field outwards in all directions. (The book, that is. The movie was seriously disappointing in many ways, including its treatment of this weapon.) $\endgroup$ Aug 14, 2015 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ @masonwheeler I hadn't read that nor seen the movie, thanks for the tip. I find it odd that a chain reaction would occur without constantly pouring power into the weapon. $\endgroup$
    – Nonafel
    Aug 14, 2015 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Nonafel: It's definitely worth reading! $\endgroup$ Aug 14, 2015 at 18:59

2 Answers 2


Unfortunately, what you describe is radioactive decay if atoms become other atoms. This may be accelerated using a neutron beam. As atomic nuclei capture additional neutrons, they become increasingly more unstable and likely to decay. It would take a lot of neutrons though.

On the other hand, if you're talking about disassembling molecular structures, but leaving the atoms untouched, just separated from one-another, that's a lot easier. Electromagnetic radiation will do it, but has to be tuned to the molecules in question for the greatest efficiency, and you need a lot of it. Heat will do it, but you need a lot of that too. If you want to get exotic, a positron beam will strip the electrons off any atoms it encounters, which would cause matter to disintegrate, but that would include those atoms right in front of the positron accelerator, so this would work best in space.

The reason that we don't have disintegrators - other than high explosives - is the sheer amount of energy it takes to disintegrate something. It is far easier to cause a smaller amount of damage which is still effectively lethal.

  • $\begingroup$ Positrons will react with electrons and release gamma rays at 512 keV, since that is a matter/antimatter reaction. The amount of energy released will also "disintegrate" most forms of matter in the region of the reaction as well, but in a violent release of energetic plasma, which is not the effect you are looking for. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Aug 14, 2015 at 3:45

The easiest way to reduce an object to atoms is simply to hit it with a lot of energy. In fact, the only known physically realizable way to break chemical bonds is to break them, which requires exactly the amount of energy that was in the bonds in the first place. Generally speaking, you should expect this to be on the order of magnitude of the amount of energy it takes to burn the object completely (assuming it is a compound that burns in the first place)

A focused laser works, or a plasma generator. Pretty much anything which puts a lot of energy in places your opponent wouldn't want the energy being put can do the trick.

Alternatively, have your disintegrator-wielding individual only pick on compounds like nitroglycerin or nitrogen triiodide. They're much easier to turn into atoms. Nitrogen Triiodide will turn into atoms if you give it a particularly stern look.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .