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Gee I hope this is clear. Say I have a box full of some element. Helium or whatever. If I could break all the nuclei apart the individual protons will have more mass because of the binding energy, right?

Does the box have more mass now?

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    $\begingroup$ You can also change the box plus molecules temperature without splitting. Just the change will be less. $\endgroup$ – Alchimista Mar 25 at 9:07
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Yes. A helium-4 atom has mass 4.002602u, while 2 protons and 2 neutrons have a total mass of 2.014552932 + 2.01732983u = 4.031882762u.

Of course after you split the helium into protons & neutrons, you won't have a box of helium anymore.

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  • $\begingroup$ one should add that the extra weight comes from the energy supplied to split the helium, (special relativity). Also note that the neutrons have a half life of 15 minutes. Pretty soon there will be only protons left. $\endgroup$ – anna v Mar 25 at 6:37

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