Unraveling the Mystery of Mass-Energy Equivalence in Nuclear Reactions

In summary: E = mc^2 is a fundamental equation in physics, but it does not fully explain the origin of energy in nuclear reactions. The energy from these reactions comes from things like nuclear binding forces, not just from the conversion of mass to energy. E = mc^2 simply demonstrates that a large amount of energy can be released through this conversion process. The specific origin of the energy in nuclear reactions depends on the type of reaction and the forces involved.
  • #1
Virogen
13
0
I was reading WikiPedia's entry on this, and there was one paragraph that surprised me:

E = mc2 has sometimes been used as an explanation for the origin of energy in nuclear processes, but mass–energy equivalence does not explain the origin of such energies. Instead, this relationship merely indicates that the large amounts of energy released in such reactions may exhibit enough mass that the mass-loss may be measured, when the released energy (and its mass) have been removed from the system.

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My question is, is this valid information? If so, could someone elucidate on where the energy from nuclear reactions comes from if it is not E=mc2?

Many thanks!
 
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  • #2
What they mean is that the energy comes from things like nuclear binding forces. E=mc^2 is always true but doesn't tell you the origin of the E. For nuclear masses it's the strong force. For chemical reactions the (tiny) mass deficit is electrostatic in origin. Etc.
 
  • #3
Virogen said:
I was reading WikiPedia's entry on this, and there was one paragraph that surprised me:

E = mc2 has sometimes been used as an explanation for the origin of energy in nuclear processes, but mass–energy equivalence does not explain the origin of such energies. Instead, this relationship merely indicates that the large amounts of energy released in such reactions may exhibit enough mass that the mass-loss may be measured, when the released energy (and its mass) have been removed from the system.

Virogen,

What I believe the article is describing is what is called the "Mass Defect." In short the Mass Defect is rumored to be the origin of E = mc^2.

In concept the "Mass Defect" states that; "The measured mass is less than the sum of its parts!"

For example a Helium Atom is comprised of: two (2) electrons, two (2) protons, and two (2) neutrons.

If you know the mass of each particle, and you sum up the mass, and write that Net Mass calculation down. Then you go and measure the mass of the Helium Atom, you will find that the Net Mass of the Helium is less than your calculated value.

The difference between your calculated value Net Mass and your measured value of the Net Mass, will be the "Mass Defect" equal to E = mc^2

Given by the following equation

[tex] E_{Defect} = \Delta m c^2_{Light} = E_{calculated} - E_{measured} [/tex]

[tex] E_{Defect} = \Delta m c^2_{Light} = m_{calculated}c^2_{Light} - m_{measured}c^2_{Light} [/tex]
 

Related to Unraveling the Mystery of Mass-Energy Equivalence in Nuclear Reactions

1. What is the concept of mass-energy equivalence in nuclear reactions?

The concept of mass-energy equivalence in nuclear reactions is based on Albert Einstein's famous equation, E=mc^2. This equation states that mass and energy are two forms of the same thing and can be converted into each other. In nuclear reactions, a small amount of mass is converted into a large amount of energy, as seen in nuclear fission and fusion reactions.

2. How is mass converted into energy in nuclear reactions?

In nuclear reactions, the conversion of mass into energy occurs through the process of nuclear binding energy. This is when the strong nuclear force, which holds the nucleus together, is released as energy when the nucleus undergoes a change, such as splitting apart in fission or combining in fusion.

3. What is the role of the mass defect in mass-energy equivalence?

The mass defect is the difference between the combined mass of the individual particles in a nucleus and the actual mass of the nucleus. This difference is due to the release of binding energy during nuclear reactions. The mass defect is an important factor in calculating the amount of energy that is released in a nuclear reaction.

4. How is the concept of mass-energy equivalence applied in nuclear power plants?

In nuclear power plants, the heat energy produced by nuclear reactions is used to generate electricity. This is achieved through the controlled fission of uranium atoms, which releases a large amount of energy in the form of heat. This heat is then used to produce steam, which drives turbines to generate electricity.

5. What are some implications of mass-energy equivalence in nuclear reactions?

The understanding of mass-energy equivalence in nuclear reactions has led to the development of nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants. It also has implications in fields such as medicine, where nuclear reactions are used in treatments and diagnostics. Additionally, this concept has greatly contributed to our understanding of the fundamental laws of physics and the structure of the universe.

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