The binding energy, E b , of a nucleus is the energy that would be released if individual nucleons (protons and neutrons) were brought together from a large distance to form the nucleus. You can also think of it as the energy that would have to be transferred to the nucleus in order to separate the nucleons, in which case unbinding energy might be a better name.
To calculate binding energy the mass of a nucleus, M, is first determined using a mass spectrometer. This mass is always less than the sum of the masses of the isolated protons and neutrons, which we will call Σm, to remind us that it is a sum. The mass difference (also called the mass deficit or mass defect) is:
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