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Energy from the Nucleus

7 years ago

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Energy in various forums is available around us. Matter itself is a concentrate of energy. All atoms, molecules, nuclei etc. are in continuous motion and have large amount of kinetic energy. But the energy that we need for our daily tasks is required in specific forms. We require energy in the form of heat to cook our food. We require energy in the form of electric current for our fans and electric lamps. Cooking gas and oxygen in air contain energy but this internal energy is not in the form required to cook our fool. When the two are engaged in a chemical reaction, heat is produced which is in usable form. Sources of usable energy is something not in plenty and man is now concerned about energy conservation. Traditional sources of usable energy are wood, coal, petroleum etc. and they are only limited amounts and might be exhausted in a few hundred years. We are getting a large amount of energy from sun but to use an appreciable fraction of it has been a challenging task. Several centers throughout the world are working hard to develop efficient solar cells which can convert the energy from the sun to usable forms. Satellites and spaceships receive energy from the sun through such solar cells.


A solution to the energy crisis has been presented by nuclear energy. Nuclear energy may be obtained either by breaking a heavy nucleus into two nuclei of middle weight or by combining two light nuclei to form a middle weight nucleus. The former process is called nuclear fission and the later nuclear fusion.


The physics of fission or fusion lies in the relation between the binding energy per nucleon. The middle weight nuclei are more tightly bound than heavy weight nuclei. When the nucleons of a heavy nucleus regroup in two middle weight nuclei, called fragments, the total binding energy increases and hence the rest mass energy decreases. The difference in energy appears as the kinetic energy of the fragments or in some other form. This is the basic principle of fission.


Similar arguments hold for fusion. Again, the light weight nuclei are less tightly bound than the middle weight nuclei. Thus, if two light nuclei combine to form a middle weight nucleus, the binding energy increases and the rest, mass decreases. Energy is released in the form of kinetic energy or in some other external form.

7 years ago

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