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Breaking down of an atom

  1. Sep 5, 2007 #1
    Is there a way that we could break down any atom into a considerable amount of energy? I know Nuclear power works but what about other particles. A concentrated laser beam or source. And if it would work, would the power output of the particle exceed the power input?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 6, 2007 #2
    Maybe I'm just wrong, but don't nuclear power plants use fission already, which is the break down of atoms, giving off a considerable amount of energy?

    Also, again, I could be thinking of this incorrectly, but either:

    1) the power they input to pull off these reactions isn't in a form readily usable by use (in contrast to the power output)

    or 2) the power input had better be less than the power output or else they just wasted power for no reason whatsoever.
  4. Sep 6, 2007 #3
    It is far more desirable to gain energy from bringing atoms together then through fissile methods.

    Essentially all nuclear power does, is heat a large amount of water creating pressurized steam to turn turbines (containing many loops of wiring) in a giant magnet which through inductance creates electricity which is more or less used directly.
  5. Sep 6, 2007 #4


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    It is a question of the relative weights of the orginal atom and the "parts" that it breaks down into. Roughly speaking, any atom larger than lead has more weight than the parts you get by fissioning it. When you fission such an atom the excess weight goes into energy according to e= mc2. It is only when you get up to the really heavy things, like Uranium and Plutonium, that the difference is enough to overcome the difficulty of fission.

    Below lead it works the other way- the "parts" weigh more than the original atom so breaking an atom up requires more energy than you get out. Of course, then you can "make energy" by putting them togeher: fusion.
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