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what would happen if you compressed the nuclei of an atom to the point of releasing engry?

1 Answer

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    It would release energy. <.<

    Okay, seriously, normally you cannot gain energy by compressing the nucleus of an atom. The reason is simple: nuclei are made up of neutrons and protons. Neutrons are neutral in charge, but protons all have the same charge. It's well-known that similar charges will repel each other. Therefore, it costs energy to keep the protons inside of the nucleus instead of flying out (note for nerds: the force responsible for keeping protons locked inside the nuclear is known as the strong nuclear force, which is described in theory as an extremely short-range force emitted and mediated by nuclear particles). Most atoms work this way. You can squeeze them together, but you'd have to spend energy to keep them squeezed, without getting any back. So it doesn't release energy, it costs energy.

    So how do nuclei release energy then?

    In short, they explode when the strong nuclear force is no longer able to contain the electromagnetic repulsion of the nucleus. Too many protons in the nucleus and this type of meltdown occurs: this is why fission occurs only with chemically heavy atoms such as uranium or plutonium. When this happens, nuclei get rid of their internal stress by splitting, often into much lighter elements, and in the process this frees a great deal of the competing energies which are then liberated. Although fission occurs when sufficiently high amounts of these heavy atoms are placed close to each other, the mechanic is that the nuclei are not being compressed so much as they are splitting apart.

    Lastly, fusion is another way of gaining energy from nuclei, but again the mechanics are different. In the most common kind of fusion, a hydrogen nucleus with one proton and no neutrons is join to another hydrogen nucleus with one proton and two neutrons, or two hydrogen nuclei with one proton and one neutron each are joined together. However, it costs less energy to keep the resulting new atom together than it does to keep the old atoms together. Where does all this energy go? It gets released, and hence fusion occurs.

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