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Physics/Fusion explosion coilcannon


QUESTION: Hello! I was on a SciFi forum and there someone talked about a fusion explosion coilcannon that appeared in some SciFi novel I can't recall. Anyways the coilcannon worked this way:
1. Hydrogen gas is channeled into the 200 meter long coilcannon.
2. Lasers and magnetic fields are used to initiate fusion in the hydrogen gas.
3. The fusion reaction is let out of control creating a fusion explosion of 100 tons of tnt up to 5 kilotons.
4. The explosion is contained by the coilcannon's electromagnets that are placed like thr electromagnets of a coilgun.
5. Magnetic fields tighten the explosion to a beam.
6. Magnetic fields channel the explosion outside of the cannon at the speed of hundreds of kilometers per second.
Does this weapon design sound physically possible to you? Or would some humongous amount og magic be required to make this thing work?

ANSWER: Physically possible, until you get to the muzzle.  The fusion reaction would go out both ends without some special structure at one end, but containing the blast in the fringing field of the muzzle would be pretty difficult if not impossible.  Therefore it would be a zero-range weapon...doesn't sound very useful.  

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QUESTION: How much more space efficient would it be to store the hydrogen for the fusion explosion in a way that our current hydrogen bombs store the hydrogen in lithium deuteride? Do you think that our current bombs would store the hydrogen in a lot smaller area needed for the 5kt than just storing it as hydrogen gas?

I can't comment on bomb design, it's too extensive a topic for here.  The choice of storage mechanism depends drastically on the conditions of the fusion, and you're mentioning magnetic storage (slightly ridiculous in terms of a nuclear blast, since I know of no such containment that would possibly contain an actual explosion in the tons range) or compress it enough to ignite a real D-Li reaction.  Hydrogen storage research for volume is done these days for fuel cells in metal hydride batteries and other uses.  Why are you concerned with hydrogen storage efficiency?  The big, heavy stuff is the gun, not the ammo.


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Dr. Stephen O. Nelson


I can answer most basic physics questions, physics questions about science fiction and everyday observations of physics, etc. I'm also usually good for science fair advice (I'm the regional science fair director). I do not answer homework problems. I will occasionally point out where a homework solution went wrong, though. I'm usually good at explaining odd observations that seem counterintuitive, energy science, nuclear physics, nuclear astrophysics, and alternative theories of physics are my specialties.


I was a physics professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, research in nuclear technology and nuclear astrophysics. My travelling science show saw over 20,000 students of all ages. I taught physics, nuclear chemistry, radiation safety, vacuum technology, and answer tons of questions as I tour schools encouraging students to consider careers in science. I moved on to a non-academic job with more research just recently.

Ph. D. from Duke University in physics, research in nuclear astrophysics reactions, gamma-ray astronomy technology, and advanced nuclear reactors.

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