The Difference between Implosion and Explosion

In the world of warfare, as documented on film or as experienced at first hand, explosions create vivid instances of destruction of mammoth proportions or of the crash of gunfire. Bombs explode and destroy and gunpowder explosions result in the propulsion of bullets from the ends of rifles. Explosions also occur in more civilized uses of volatile materials such as dynamite. These “non-destructive” controlled uses of explosive materials enable road builders to blast impeding rocks, mining operations to create shafts and tunnels and construction companies to prepare for new buildings by demolishing old structures. Explosions also occur in nature, as with volcanic eruptions and detonating supernovas in the far reaches of the universe.

Explosions as depicted above generally begin at some central point and flash outward in a noisy blast of energy. Depending on the power of the igniting force, exploded material will travel away from the blast center over greater or lesser distances. Sound waves generated by the detonation also tend to travel great distances, considerably farther than the displaced material. When the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa erupted in 1883, for instance, the crack of the loudest explosions reportedly could be heard some two thousand miles away.

An implosion, while often having the same destructive force as an explosion, produces an almost inverse effect on the disturbed topography or superstructure. In an implosion, the affected object collapses inward upon itself. This means an implosion cannot occur in the absence of a core of open space or a vacuum. When an implosion occurs, the outer structure of the object crumples or disintegrates into the inner cavity.

In nature, an implosion may precede an explosion as when the gravitational collapse of a large star results in an explosive supernova. In mining operations, an implosion may follow an explosion if a charge of dynamite should cause the collapse of a mine tunnel. Construction crews nowadays use dynamite and the power of an implosion to collapse inward the walls of multi-storied buildings. A dangerous implosion may happen in the home or office if the glass of a fluorescent tube through mishandling breaks and collapses into the internal vacuum of the tube. The power of such an implosion can result in the shattered glass being exploded across the room or workplace.

The powerful forces produced by either an explosion or an implosion make these events, whether natural or man-made, hazardous occurrences best treated with utmost respect.