Quantum chromodynamics binding energy (QCD binding energy), gluon binding energy or chromodynamic binding energy is the energy binding quarks together into hadrons. It is the energy of the field of the strong force, which is mediated by gluons.
QCD binding energy contributes most of the hadron’s mass. Most of the mass of hadrons is actually QCD binding energy, through mass-energy equivalence. This phenomenon is related to chiral symmetry breaking.
- In the case of nucleons – protons and neutrons – QCD binding energy forms about 99% of the nucleon’s mass. That is if assuming that the kinetic energy of the hadron’s constituents, moving at near the speed of light, which contributes greatly to the hadron mass, is part of QCD binding energy.
- For protons, the sum of the rest masses of the three valence quarks (two up quarks and one down quark) is approximately 9.4 MeV/c2, while the proton’s total mass is about 938.3 MeV/c2.
- For neutrons, the sum of the rest masses of the three valence quarks (two down quarks and one up quark) is approximately 11.9 MeV/c2, while the neutron’s total mass is about 939.6 MeV/c2.
Considering that nearly all of the atom’s mass is concentrated in the nucleons, this means that about 99% of the mass of everyday matter (baryonic matter) is, in fact, chromodynamics binding energy.