How the Nazi Atomic Bomb worked

Development in WW2

After WW2 several German nuclear scientists who had been engaged in Nazi Germany's Atomic weapons projects attempted to patent their design for a nuclear weapon with a sub critical warhead. Wartime Nazi patents which by prior agreements should have been equally distributed between all Allied powers were instead confiscated by the United States and spirited out of Germany in great secrecy. The United States used this booty to create a technological prowess and prosperous economy for itself for the next six decades.

The unlawfulness of the taking such patents is one of the key reasons why much about the Nazi A-bomb remains secret to this day.

Post war attempts to obtain a grant of Patent for improved devices were frustrated in Germany, but articles and books describing these inventions were published in France by key German scientists like Diebner using the pseudonym H.J. Hajeck. Publishing these inventions co-coincided with efforts by former Nazis to sell arms and nuclear technologies to Egypt and Syria in the 1950s.

The approach taken by nuclear physicist Dr Erich Schumann and ballistics expert Dr Walter Trinks relied upon Germany's mastery over chemical explosive hollow charge warheads, invented during 1935 by Franz Rudolf Thomanek. It is worth mentioning that during the development of hollow charge explosives a high speed camera was invented to record explosions which took photos at 45,000 frames per second. Rear Admiral Dr Otto Haxel in his experiments with superheating Lithium at a laboratory the village of Greifswald obtained temperatures of 20,000 degrees Centigrade using hollow charge explosives.

Germany's Atomic Bomb was small enough to fit in this Box!

Principles of Weapon

An important key to influencing Lithium to generate Neutrons in what is called a plasma pinch is to superheat Lithium above 800 degrees Centigrade under massive pressures circa 100,000 atmospheres.

Another important factor is the creation of a vacuum cavity which assists the propagation of a plasma to form X-rays. The Schumann / Trinks A-bomb exhibited both features.

Schumann & Trinks proposed to set up two conical hollow charges facing one another to implode a mixture of ingredients towards each other as two molten slugs. These slugs of Lithium-6 collided with each other at speeds up to 10 kilometres per second. With such pressures and temperatures, Lithium-6 in the presence of Deterium sheds neutrons in a massive rush, which artificially recreates the same critical mass effect obtained in a conventional nuclear warhead.

Detonation Sequence

The bomb worked like this. At the core was a small mass of Uranium 233 much like the size of a marble. It was coated with Lithium Deuteride and Beryllium oxide. It was place at the very centre between two comes made of Lithium metal. The cavity was evacuated to form a vacuum. In later designs there was also a sphere, between the Lithium cones and the fissile "marble."

The two cones were then mated together and a vacuum formed inside the two cups. special fast acting explosives were packed around the outside of these cones;

At the moment of detonation two detonators were fired simultaneously at the apex of each Lithium cup;

as the surrounding explosion enlarged shockwaves began at the apex of each cone pushing the apex inwards, deforming the cups and effectively inverting the cone in a slug of molten Lithium moving at supersonic speeds. As the molten slugs reached the marble, their impact with the Deuteride coating caused a plasma pinch or put another way their ionised state generated X-rays which triggered nuclear fusion between Lithium and deuterium which inundated the fissile mass with a mass of neutrons;

Below is a schematic diagram based on a post war patent by the scientists who developed this design from 1942 to 1943;

Schumann & Trinks would also have had the benefit of a scientific paper from Japan in 1941,* disclosing a photo-fission method for generating artificial radiation. Photo-fission for example can be harnessed to transmute Uranium 238 to Plutonium without the need for a nuclear reactor.

*B. Arakatsu, Y. Uemura, M. Sonoda, S. Shimizu, K. Kimura, and K. Muraoka: Paper "Photo-Fission
of Uranium and Thorium Produced by the r-Rays of Lithium and Fluorine Bombarded with
High Speed Protons," Proc. Phys.-Math. Soc.,Japan, 23, 440-445 (1941).

© Simon Gunson