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In chemistry, ballotechnics are a class of materials that undergo a chemical reaction when quickly subjected to extreme pressures. These pressures are of the order of tens of thousands of atmospheres, and the chemical reactions are initiated by shock waves transmitted through the material. The reaction progresses with little change in volume, and are therefore not "explosive", although the energy released in the process can be large.
Additional recommended knowledge
While most of the research performed on ballotechnics originates from Sandia National Laboratories   the researchers involved are involved in chemical and simulation research, not nuclear weapons research. Other research has been performed at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Ballotechnics are a controversial topic in arms control, where it is claimed they may have a high enough energy density to be useful as a replacement for the fission-based "primary" in a fusion bomb. If this were to be true, the lack of fissile material could make attempts to stop nuclear proliferation almost impossible, as existing methods are based largely on control of the material and the enrichment process that extracts it.
Red Mercury connections
The main proponent of ballotechnics as a claimed fusion initiator is Samuel Cohen, a somewhat controversial figure in the nuclear arms field who claims that the almost certainly mythical "red mercury" is in fact a powerful ballotechnic material, and that the Soviets have perfected its use and used it to create a number of softball-sized "mini-nukes".
Most are highly sceptical of these claims due to the physics involved, as it is not clear how heat could be used to trigger the implosion required. It has been recorded that Edward Teller laughed the concept off entirely.
Further damaging the already-low credibility of this claim is that Cohen claimed that Saddam Hussein was in possession of about 50 of these devices and planned to use them against the United States during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. To date none have been found or they are classified.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Ballotechnics". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|