Emc2 - Practical Examples

Practical Examples

Einstein used the CGS system of units (centimeters, grams, seconds, dynes, and ergs), but the formula is independent of the system of units. In natural units, the speed of light is defined to equal 1, and the formula expresses an identity: E = m. In the SI system (expressing the ratio E / m in joules per kilogram using the value of c in meters per second):

E / m = c2 = (299,792,458 m/s)2 = 89,875,517,873,681,764 J/kg (≈9.0 × 1016 joules per kilogram).

So the energy equivalent of one gram (1/1000 of a kilogram) of mass is equivalent to:

89.9 terajoules
25.0 million kilowatt-hours (≈25 GW·h)
21.5 billion kilocalories (≈21 Tcal)
85.2 billion BTUs

or to the energy released by combustion of the following:

21.5 kilotons of TNT-equivalent energy (≈21 kt)
568,000 US gallons of automotive gasoline

Any time energy is generated, the process can be evaluated from an E = mc2 perspective. For instance, the "Gadget"-style bomb used in the Trinity test and the bombing of Nagasaki had an explosive yield equivalent to 21 kt of TNT. About 1 kg of the approximately 6.15 kg of plutonium in each of these bombs fissioned into lighter elements totaling almost exactly one gram less, after cooling. The electromagnetic radiation and kinetic energy (thermal and blast energy) released in this explosion carried the missing one gram of mass. This occurs because nuclear binding energy is released whenever elements with more than 62 nucleons fission.

Another example is hydroelectric generation. The electrical energy produced by Grand Coulee Dam's turbines every 3.7 hours represents one gram of mass. This mass passes to the electrical devices (such as lights in cities) which are powered by the generators, where it appears as a gram of heat and light. Turbine designers look at their equations in terms of pressure, torque, and RPM. However, Einstein's equations show that all energy has mass, and thus the electrical energy produced by a dam's generators, and the heat and light which result from it, all retain their mass, which is equivalent to the energy. The potential energy—and equivalent mass—represented by the waters of the Columbia River as it descends to the Pacific Ocean would be converted to heat due to viscous friction and the turbulence of white water rapids and waterfalls were it not for the dam and its generators. This heat would remain as mass on site at the water, were it not for the equipment which converted some of this potential and kinetic energy into electrical energy, which can be moved from place to place (taking mass with it).

Whenever energy is added to a system, the system gains mass:

  • A spring's mass increases whenever it is put into compression or tension. Its added mass arises from the added potential energy stored within it, which is bound in the stretched chemical (electron) bonds linking the atoms within the spring.
  • Raising the temperature of an object (increasing its heat energy) increases its mass. For example, consider the world's primary mass standard for the kilogram, made of platinum/iridium. If its temperature is allowed to change by 1°C, its mass will change by 1.5 picograms (1 pg = 1 × 10−12 g).
  • A spinning ball will weigh more than a ball that is not spinning. Its increase of mass is exactly the equivalent of the mass of energy of rotation, which is itself the sum of the kinetic energies of all the moving parts of the ball. For example, the Earth itself is more massive due to its daily rotation, than it would be with no rotation. This rotational energy (2.14 x 1029 J) represents 2.38 billion metric tons of added mass.

Note that no net mass or energy is really created or lost in any of these examples and scenarios. Mass/energy simply moves from one place to another. These are some examples of the transfer of energy and mass in accordance with the principle of mass–energy conservation.

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