What is the true nature of binding energy in a nucleus?

In summary, binding energy refers to the energy required to completely separate the protons and neutrons in a nucleus. It does not necessarily mean that the nucleus itself contains that amount of energy. Instead, binding energy can be thought of as a deficit in potential energy that is needed to overcome the strong force holding the nucleus together. In this sense, the nucleus is in a zero-energy state when it is all bound together.
  • #1
jumbogala
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Homework Statement


This is not really a homework question -just something I realized I don't understand. I am confused about binding energy of a nucleus. I understand that the definition of binding energy is the energy required to completely separate the protons and neutrons in the nucleus.

Let's say a nucleus of some kind has a binding energy of 10 eV. That means I will have to input 10 eV to separate the parts of the nucleus.

However, does this mean that the nucleus actually has 10 eV stored in it? For example, I can measure how much kinetic energy a moving object has or contains. Does binding energy work the same way? Is the binding energy actually the amount of energy the nucleus contains?

Homework Equations

The Attempt at a Solution



When you add energy to a nucleus to overcome the binding energy, are you giving the individual protons and neutrons more potential energy as they separate? I think so (not 100% sure though).

So when the nucleus is all bound together, it should have zero potential energy. So I don't think binding energy is something the nucleus actually has... it seems to be the nucleus is in a zero-energy state before it is separated. This seems not quite right though... Thanks in advance!
 
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  • #2
jumbogala said:
So when the nucleus is all bound together, it should have zero potential energy.
If we were considering gravitational potential energy, the zero point is conventionally taken with the gravitating objects at infinity. Gravitational potential energy is always negative otherwise.

Same thing with the strong force. The binding energy is not some surplus that the nucleus has. Instead, it is a deficit.
 

Related to What is the true nature of binding energy in a nucleus?

What is binding energy?

Binding energy refers to the energy that is required to hold together a nucleus or a collection of particles, such as atoms or molecules. It is a fundamental concept in nuclear physics and chemistry.

How is binding energy measured?

Binding energy is typically measured in units of electron volts (eV) or joules (J). In nuclear physics, it is often expressed in terms of binding energy per nucleon, which represents the amount of energy needed to remove a single nucleon from the nucleus.

What factors affect binding energy?

The main factor that affects binding energy is the strength of the forces that hold particles together. In the case of atomic nuclei, this is primarily the strong nuclear force. The number of particles and their arrangement also play a role in determining the binding energy.

Why is binding energy important?

Binding energy is important because it is a crucial component of nuclear reactions and radioactive decay. It also plays a key role in determining the stability of atoms and molecules, as well as the properties of materials.

How is binding energy related to nuclear energy?

Nuclear energy is released when the binding energy of a nucleus is converted into other forms of energy, such as heat or electricity. This occurs during nuclear reactions, such as fission and fusion, which involve breaking apart or combining nuclei to release energy.

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