Many of today’s advancementsin nuclear science are due to the contributionof the Manhattan Project. Without the attempt to develop a nuclear weapon we wouldn’thave been able to learn more about the atom, nuclear fission, nuclear chainreactions etc. This project made advancements in science possible and the worldwe live in today. TheManhattan Project was an attempt to develop the first atomic bomb.
ScientistAlbert Einstein fled Nazi persecution, and Enrico Fermi, escaped Fascist Italy,refugees to the United States. “While in Germany they had learned about Germanscientist working on nuclear technology. They agreed upon writing a letterinforming President Roosevelt about what German scientist was doing” (Foundation). President Rooseveltresponded by assembling a team of the best scientist and military officialsforming the Uranium Committee. This committee researched uranium and itspotential use as a weapon. In the early 1940’s the U.S government began toorganize and fund nuclear research. The Government funded Enrico Fermi and LeoSzilard’s research, consisting of radioactive isotope separation and nuclearchain reactions.
LeoSzilard theory was that nuclear material could react in the same way as achemical chain reaction. If a neutron from one atom can be used to cause anenergy producing reaction in another atom, a chain reaction could formreleasing more neutrons generating more reactions. When someone discovers howto make that chain reaction occur they can create a nuclear bomb. The UraniumCommittee’s primary focus was to isolate enough uranium to create the chainreaction Szilard theorized. Most of the natural uranium in the world isprimarily of U-235 (0.
7% natural abundance) and U-238 (99% natural abundance). “Whenneutrons collide with U-235, it emits huge amounts of energy through a fissionreaction, whereas U-238 is less fissile than U-235” (Limited). The committee wastrying to figure out how to separate the U-235 from the U-238, they discoveredthat it could be done by combining uranium with fluorine to form a gas thatcould be filtered to extract the isotope that they wanted. But then, they hadto figure out how much uranium-235 was needed to achieve critical mass, thesmallest amount of fissile material necessary to sustain a nuclear chainreaction. After that, they had to figure out how fast a neutron had to be firedat the uranium atom to trigger a reaction.
Bythe end of 1942, Fermi and Szilard were still engaged in researching nuclearchain reactions, and successfully enriched uranium to produce uranium-235 fromthe uranium-238. The project was then turned over to the United States ArmyCorps of Engineers (USACE) and moved to three different facilities located inTennessee, New Mexico, and Washington. “The main facility was in New Mexicowhere Robert Oppenheimer was in charge of Project Y, the research andconstruction of the first atomic bomb” (Staff).
On July 1945, thefirst atomic bomb named “The Gadget” code-name “Trinity” was tested anddetonated successfully in Alamogordo, New Mexico. TheManhattan Project has it’s positive and negativeeffects, it has revolutionized awhole new understanding of the atom and has brought new advances in science suchas nuclear energy and medicine. However, this new technology was disclosed to the restof the world resulting in other countries creating even greater dangerousweapons that could cause mass destruction.