Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Citizen Kurchatov: Stalin's Bomb Maker

 

The Layer Cake

Andrei Sakharov had arrived at Arzamas-16 in 1948 with his mentor Igor Tamm. Kurchatov had asked Tamm if he could help confirm the mathematical results that other scientists had already calculated. Sakharov, who recently received his Ph.D. under Tamm, followed him to Arzamas-16 to assist with the plans.

Andrei SakharovSakharov found some faults in the "tube" plan that Zeldovich's team had formulated. He designed his own plan, which he called the "layer cake." His idea was to place alternating layers of the fusionable material (tritium and deuterium) between layers of fissionable fuel (uranium). Vitalii Ginzburg, another of Tamm's students, added one improvement, and everyone including Zeldovich agreed with the new plan.

The Soviets had a workable idea by the end of 1948, before they had tested their first atomic bomb. But they waited until after the test before they started to build their hydrogen bomb.

 

Zeldovich was the head of the theoretical department at Arzamas-16.

  Next: America's Hydrogen Bomb
Previous: Super Bomb
NEH
Site Index Home Good of Mankind Cold War Stalin's Regime Ends America's Hydrogen Bomb The Layer Cake Super Bomb Atomic Powers Arzamas-16 A New Weapon Nuclear Secrets Revolution