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Concept# Semi-empirical mass formula

Summary

In nuclear physics, the semi-empirical mass formula (SEMF) (sometimes also called the Weizsäcker formula, Bethe–Weizsäcker formula, or Bethe–Weizsäcker mass formula to distinguish it from the Bethe–Weizsäcker process) is used to approximate the mass of an atomic nucleus from its number of protons and neutrons. As the name suggests, it is based partly on theory and partly on empirical measurements. The formula represents the liquid-drop model proposed by George Gamow, which can account for most of the terms in the formula and gives rough estimates for the values of the coefficients. It was first formulated in 1935 by German physicist Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, and although refinements have been made to the coefficients over the years, the structure of the formula remains the same today.
The formula gives a good approximation for atomic masses and thereby other effects. However, it fails to explain the existence of lines of greater binding energy at certain numbers of protons and neutrons. These numbers, known as magic numbers, are the foundation of the nuclear shell model.
The liquid-drop model was first proposed by George Gamow and further developed by Niels Bohr and John Archibald Wheeler. It treats the nucleus as a drop of incompressible fluid of very high density, held together by the nuclear force (a residual effect of the strong force), there is a similarity to the structure of a spherical liquid drop. While a crude model, the liquid-drop model accounts for the spherical shape of most nuclei and makes a rough prediction of binding energy.
The corresponding mass formula is defined purely in terms of the numbers of protons and neutrons it contains. The original Weizsäcker formula defines five terms:
Volume energy, when an assembly of nucleons of the same size is packed together into the smallest volume, each interior nucleon has a certain number of other nucleons in contact with it. So, this nuclear energy is proportional to the volume.
Surface energy corrects for the previous assumption made that every nucleon interacts with the same number of other nucleons.

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