Mass Defect vs Binding Energy
Mass defect and binding energy are two concepts encountered in the study of fields such as atomic structure, nuclear physics, military applications and wave particle duality of matter. It is vital to have a clear understanding in these concepts in order to apply their properties and excel in such fields. In this article, we are going to discuss what mass defect and binding energy are, their applications, the definitions of mass defect and binding energy, their similarities and finally the differences between mass defect and binding energy.
What is Mass Defect?
Mass defect of a system is the difference of the measured mass of the system from the calculated mass of the system. Such events occur in nuclear reactions. For an example, the nuclear reaction taking place in the sun is such an event. Four Hydrogen nuclei merge to form a Helium nucleus. This process is known as nuclear fusion. In this process, the combined measured mass of the four Hydrogen nuclei is greater than the combined mass of the products. The missing mass is turned into energy. One must understand energy – mass duality of matter first, to understand this concept properly. The theory of relativity along with quantum mechanics showed that energy and mass are the interchangeable. This gives rise to the energy – mass conservation of the universe. However, when nuclear fusion or nuclear fission is not presented, it can be considered that the energy of a system is conserved. With Albert Einstein postulating the theory of relativity in 1905, almost everything classical broke down. He went on to show that waves sometimes behaved as particles and particles behaved as waves. This was known as the wave particle duality. This led to unison between mass and energy. Both of these quantities are two forms of matter. The famous equation E = mc2 gives us the amount of energy that can be obtained from m amount of mass.
What is Binding Energy?
Binding energy is the energy that is released when a system transfers from an unbound situation to a bound situation. When the system is considered, this is an energy loss. However, the convention for the binding energy is to take it as positive. The total potential energy of the final system is always lower than the initial system when a system transfers to a bound state. In turn, this binding energy is required to break the binding of the system. For nuclear reactions, this binding energy comes in the form of mass defect. Higher the binding energy of a system, more stable the system is. The formation of a bond is always an exothermic reaction while breaking of a bond is always endothermic. For molecular formation and intermolecular bond formation, the binding energy is released as heat or electromagnetic radiation.
What is the difference between mass defect and binding energy?
• Mass defect is the difference between the calculated mass of the system and the measured mass of the system, while binding energy is the total energy difference between the initial system and the bound system.
• In nuclear reactions, the binding energy corresponds to the mass defect of the system.
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