September 12, 1933 – Leó Szilárd conceives the idea of the nuclear chain reaction

Enrico Fermi y Leó Szilárd

On September 12, 1933, in London, Szilárd read an article in "The Times" that summarized a speech made by Ernest Rutherford that rejected the feasibility of using atomic energy for practical purposes, saying that it was a very poor and inefficient form of produce energy and anyone looking for a source of energy in the transformation of atoms was talking about "silly alcohol". The speech referred specifically to the recent work of his students John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton, "splitting lithium into alpha particles by bombarding a particle accelerator they had built with protons."

As Szilárd claimed, he was so angry with Rutherford for not wanting to talk about nuclear power and while waiting to cross Southhampton Avenue in Bloomsbury, he conceived the idea of a nuclear chain reaction, using recently discovered neutrons.

The idea was not based on nuclear fission because it had not yet been discovered, but Szilard realized that if neutrons could start some kind of energy-producing nuclear reaction, like the one that had occurred in lithium, they could be produced. by themselves and, in addition, energy could be obtained with little input, since the reaction would be self-sustaining. He applied for a patent on the concept of neutron-induced nuclear chain reaction in 1933, which was granted in 1936.

If you want to know more about this scientist, click on the following link: Leó Szilárd

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