Saturday, May 26, 2007

Binding Energy

The binding energy per nucleon per nucleon is the force holding atoms together. Setting aside the spiritual, the universe revolves around nucleonic binding energy.

Atoms are ‘tightest’ at an atomic weight of around 60. Heavy atoms like Uranium are ‘loose’, containing extra energy. This energy can be released by splitting the atom and creating more stable elements with lower weights. Fission bombs release this energy in war; fuel rods release this energy to create electricity.

The energy released by fission pales in comparison to the energy released by fusion. Our sun creates energy by pushing hydrogen atoms together, sustaining life on earth. After the hydrogen is gone, the star dies and goes cold. Thermonuclear weapons also push together hydrogen atoms. In effect, a thermonuclear explosion is a small sunspot on earth.

Iran is attempting to create a 15-kiloton fission weapon. Fusion weapons are used by the US and Russia. A typical 1950s ICBM weapon yield was 3.6 megatons (3,600-kilotons). Russia exploded a 56 megaton (56,000-kiloton) weapons in the 1960s.

No comments: