Q:

What happens when you split an atom?

A:

Quick Answer

Also referred to as nuclear fission, splitting an atom results in its overall mass being reduced, causing the release of a relatively massive amount of energy. Virtually every atom can generate nuclear energy in this way, but those with the greatest atomic mass will provide the most energy from fission.

Continue Reading

Full Answer

Nuclear reactors rely on fission to generate heat, which then causes cooling pools to boil, driving steam turbines. In other cases, it is the sudden and violent fission process that results in nuclear detonations that can devastate huge geographic areas. The process itself is remarkably efficient, but requires a large investment of initial energy to generate. In opposition to fission, the fusion process by which two atoms are joined generates several times as much energy, but does not present the risk of nuclear contamination or pollution. As well, spent isotope fuel rods remain hazardous for many thousands of years while the materials consumed during the fusion process remain safe to handle and transport. The most common fusion process, that of converting hydrogen and oxygen into water, is often the easiest and most frequently referred to. Not only are these two elements the most plentiful, they also join more readily than other elements.

Learn more about Chemistry

Related Questions

  • Q:

    What is a nitrogen bomb?

    A:

    A nitrogen bomb typically refers to an explosive device made from compounds that contain less stable formations of nitrogen that release tremendous energy once the required level of activation energy is released, causing an explosion. Bombs utilizing nitrogen include C4, nitroglycerin, TNT and the infamous fertilizer bomb of Timothy McVeigh.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What is a degradative reaction?

    A:

    A degradative reaction breaks down a chemical compound into less complex molecules and is usually accompanied with the release of energy. It is generally represented as AB → A + B where AB is the complex molecule (reactant) and A and B are the smaller molecules (products).

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    Is freezing endothermic or exothermic?

    A:

    Freezing water is an exothermic process because there is a release of energy into the environment in the form of heat. In an exothermic reaction, the change in enthalpy or measure of heat content, is negative.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What indicates the main energy levels of an atom?

    A:

    The main energy levels of an atom are indicated by the principal quantum numbers. This number, which illustrates the orbital size, describes the orbital energy of an atom indirectly.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore