The humble atom is the fundamental building block of all normal matter.
Hydrogen, in which single electrons orbit individual protons, composes ~90% of all atoms.
Quantum mechanically, electrons only occupy specific energy levels.
Atomic and molecular transitions between those levels absorbs and/or releases energy.
Energetic transitions have many causes: photon absorption, molecular collisions, atomic bond breaking/forming, etc.
Chemical energy powers most human endeavors, through coal, oil, gas, wind, hydroelectric, and solar power.
The most energy-efficient chemical reactions convert merely ~0.000001% of their mass into energy.
However, atomic nuclei offer superior options.
Containing 99.95% of an atom’s mass, bonds between protons and neutrons involve significantly greater energies.
Nuclear fission, for example, converts ~0.09% of the fissionable mass into pure energy.
Fusing hydrogen into helium achieves even greater efficiencies.
For every four protons that fuse into helium-4, ~0.7% of the initial mass is converted into energy.
Nuclear power universally outstrips electron transitions for energy efficiency.
Still, the atom’s greatest source of energy is rest mass, extractable via Einstein’s E = mc2.
Matter-antimatter annihilation is 100% efficient, converting mass completely into energy.
Practically unlimited energy is locked within every atom; the key is to safely and reliably extract it.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.