If hydrogen is so dangerous (hydrogen bomb) then why doesn't water explode (H2O)?

Is it the oxygen that makes it ok?

12 Answers

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  • 1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    The hydrogen bomb has absolutely nothing to do with the chemistry of hydrogen. Hydrogen gas does burn in oxygen, forming H2O, and the process releases a lot of heat. However, the reaction occuring in a hydrogen bomb is a nuclear reaction, not a chemical reaction, which releases a staggering amount of energy, unimaginably more than just burning some hydrogen gas.

    A hydrogen bomb contains two isotopes of hydrogen, called deuterium and tritium. These both have only 1 proton, but deuterium has one neutron and tritium has 2 neutrons. Normal hydrogen has no neutrons, and 1 proton. The chemistry of tritium and deuterium is almost identical to that of hydrogen - tritium will burn in oxygen to form water with two tritium atoms instead of normal hydrogen.

    What happens in a normal atom bomb is that a very large nucleus is split apart, and this releases energy. In a hydrogen bomb, two small nuclei are joined together, which also produces energy. The reaction that occurs is:

    Tritium (1 proton, 2 neutrons)+ Deuterium (1 proton, 1 neutron)-> Helium (2 protons, 2 neutrons) + 1 neutron + a lot of energy

    The nuclei are actually joining together to make another element. When you burn hydrogen, the nuclei are not changed, but the atoms are joined together in a different way.

    Because both nuceli are positively charged, a lot of energy is needed to get them close enough to join to make helium, which is why hydrogen bombs contain uranium or plutonium, to create a relatively small conventional nuclear explosion which releases enough energy to get the hydrogen to fuse, causing a much larger thermonuclear explosion. This can't possibly happen at room temperature, or even a hell of a lot hotter, so you can have a balloon full of hydrogen without any risk that it will create a nuclear explosion. It could explode if you set it on fire, but that's a chemical reaction, not a nuclear one, and it produces probably billions (maybe trillions, it's a wild guess) of times less energy.

  • bob
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Hydrogen is very dangerous because it is readily combines with oxygen which is abundant in our atmosphere. However once it has attached to the oxygen (burned) it forms a new compound, water, which as you observe, is very stable. Much like wood burns, but ashes don't...they have already burned. A hydrogen bomb is a completely different situation. A hydrogen bomb derives its energy from combining the nuclei of two hydrogen atoms to form a new compound. Two hydrogen atoms have a similar electrical charge so it is very difficult to achieve this reaction, but when it is achieved it provides thousands of times the energy that is released in oxidation (burning).

  • Norrie
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Hydrogen (H2) is a very explosive substance in air.

    When chemically combined with Oxygen in a combustion reaction, it becomes oxidised.

    Water therefore cannot burn as it's the product of oxidation of Hydrogen. If it cannot burn, it can't explode and, yes, it's the oxygen, being non-flammable that prevents burning (or explosion) as it's already been used in the formation of the completely new substance called water.

    Water and the elements of its make up, have VERY different properties.

    2H2 + O2 = 2H2O.

    The only way water can explode is not by reaction (as in burning), but by heating to a very high temperature and pressure in a closed container. The resultant steam pressure will 'explode' the container.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Hi Don.

    In a way it is in fact the oxygen that makes it "OK". Hydrogen by itself is a very flammable gas (H2). However, when this combines with an oxygen atom/ion, we get water but this needs to occur under a high pressure. In this combined form, hydrogen is no longer flammable and is what we call "stable". You can get the hydrogen back out of the water again though! good fun too :)

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  • gp4rts
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    The first answer is right, and you are right--it is the oxygen that makes it ok. Hydrogen is dangerous because it is flammable, not because of its use in the H-bomb. In order to explode (fuse) hydrogen H-bomb style, intense heat and pressure is needed (and is provided by an A-bomb)--it can't just happen accidentally.

  • Jane
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    It is a series of explosions 1. Conventional shaped charges compress soccer-ball wedges of plutonioum, squeezing it together 2. A blast of neutrons hits the compressed ball from a trigger device. 3. The soccer ball does the plutonium atom splitting (fission) dance which releases lots of energy, heat, light, and neutrons. 4. The pressure from the fission of the plutonium along with the neutrons helps push lithium into deuterium atoms (or tritium into deuterium, depending on your mix). This is fusion. Deuterium and tritium are both forms of hydrogen - thus the term "hydrogen bomb". 5. The fusion of hydrogen releases more energy and more neutrons. This by itself would be a pretty deadly bomb but wait, there is more. 6. The fast neutrons being formed by the fusion run outward and smack into the outer casing of the bomb. That casing is uranium. The uranium atoms do their splitting trick (fission). This is a significant bang. For a long time this was secret and yet the bomb test air samples always showed the results of uranium fission. Hope that was technical enough without being too dry.

  • 1 decade ago

    The hydrogen bomb (thermonuclear device) relies on an out of control fusion reaction, not it's oxidation of hydrogen. Elemental hydrogen will readily burn with ignition in air, to form water, the product of oxidation of hydrogen.

  • 1 decade ago

    ln general sense, atoms which are purer [H2 or O2 or N2] are often more reactive than in compounds. To know why water doesn't explode you have to grasp this concept, the more bonds the less reaction .

    H2 has barely any bonds and is unstable enough to detach at whim of heat and something to bond with, when bonds are formed heat is produced. When O2 is introduced, also unstable. The atoms react with a spark, forming bonds and lessening reactivity.

    Water will explode if something it can react with is mixed with it, much of the earth's atmosphere lacks such [sodium].

    lt is not oxygen that makes it safe for most people, as long as hydrogen bonds with something [chlorine to form HCL] it is less reactive [atomically] than before.

    Source(s): See charges
  • 1 decade ago

    H2O already reacted with oxygen. This is what is commonly referred to as "burning", so in other words: water is already burned.

  • 1 decade ago

    alright let me tell you that water is a solvent . solvents will explode only if you mix anything with it .

    your oil is not a solvent so ot will float and salt will not dissolve in it .

    hydrogen is not a solvent so mixing it with anything will not dissolve it but create a chemical reaction because it cannot dissolve!!! :)

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