Nuclear binding energy
nuclear binding energy
(Science: physics) The difference between the total energy (= mc^2) of the bound nucleus, and the energies of the individual constituent particles (= sum of masses c^2). The nuclear binding energy per nucleon is a maximum for iron. Fusion releases energy because light nuclei are less tightly bound than medium-weight nuclei, and thus energy is liberated when they become more tightly bound after fusing. Fission releases energy for the same reason - heavy nuclei are also less tightly bound than medium-weight nuclei, and energy is liberated when heavy nuclei split into lighter nuclei.