Does the definition of an atomic explosion require the interaction of two or more atoms, or can a single atom be the source of an explosion?

Another way of phrasing the same question. Can there be an atomic explosion involving a single atom without any other atom involved in the start or chain reaction of the explosion.


1 Answer 1


It depends on exactly what you're asking.

The spontaneous radioactive decay of a nucleus involves only one atom. For example if you take an isolated uranium-235 atom and simply wait it will eventually decay without any interaction with anything else.

However if you're trying to make an atomic bomb this can't be done by relying on spontaneous decay. Instead we use stimulated fission, where a uranium-235 nucleus is struck by a neutron from an external source and this triggers fission. The fission releases three neutrons and these strike other uranium nuclei and trigger their fission, and so on causing a chain reaction and nuclear explosion.


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