Atomic Bomb Lesson for Kids: Facts & Definition

Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

Learn about atomic bombs, including what they are and how they can make such enormous explosions. This lesson also covers the different types of atomic bombs and how they work.

What Is an Atomic Bomb?

Can you imagine how much energy you use in your house every year? Think of everything you use to power the lights, fridge, and computer - anything you plug in uses energy. Over a whole year, that adds up to quite a lot!

Now imagine 1,600 times that amount of energy, all packed into one explosion. That was the energy of the first atomic bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945. The newest atomic bombs are even more powerful. Let's find out how they work.

How Do Atomic Bombs Work?

To understand what an atomic bomb is, you need to understand what an atom is. An atom is a very tiny piece of stuff; they're so small you can't even see them with a microscope.

An atom: the clump in the center is the nucleus.
Atom

Each atom contains even tinier particles. In the middle of the atom, there's a clump of particles called the nucleus. The nucleus is held together by a very strong force. An atomic bomb gets its power either by breaking up the nucleus of an atom or by forcing the nuclei of two different atoms to combine.

When a nucleus breaks apart or two nuclei come together, energy is released and the bomb explodes. That's why atomic bombs are also called 'nuclear' bombs, because they're all about the nucleus.

Types of Atoms in Atomic Bombs

Only a few kinds of atoms will release neutrons when they split apart, so only a few kinds of atoms can be used in atomic bombs. Most bombs use plutonium-239 atoms or uranium-235 atoms.

Uranium-235
Uranium-235

What Are the Types of Atomic Bombs?

There are two main types of atomic bombs: fission bombs and fusion bombs.

Fission Bombs

In a fission bomb, the nucleus of the atom is split apart to make the explosion.

To set off the bomb, a single particle, called a neutron, is shot into the nucleus of an atom. This splits the nucleus apart. Splitting the nucleus releases a lot of energy, and it also releases three more neutrons.

Those neutrons start bouncing around and banging into other nuclei. That splits those nuclei apart, so they release a bunch more energy and even more neutrons. Eventually, all the nuclei in the whole bomb get split apart, and the bomb releases a huge amount of energy.

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