Betavoltatic nuclear battery

Researchers at the University of Missouri have created a long-lasting and more efficient nuclear battery that could be used for many applications such as a reliable energy source in automobiles and also in complicated applications such as space flight

10/12/14 5:00 am chumakdenis 1

1975.jpgFor everyone of us it is not a secret that nothing in the world as powerful as nuclear energy sources.That's why scientists and technology companies are constantly seeking ways to improve nuclear battery life and efficiency.But how about safety? Are they safe to use?

For most of us, it's a critical issue since noone would like to drive death machine and be afraid of consequences like Fukushima catastrophe(even if the catastrophe scale much smaller).

Well, researchers at the University of Missoure tend to reassure us that these batteries are safe to use cause they applied water-based solution.So,let's find out more.

Water-based solution

Now, for the first time using a water-based solution, researchers at the University of Missouri have created a long-lasting and more efficient nuclear battery that could be used for many applications such as a reliable energy source in automobiles and also in complicated applications such as space flight.

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A few words about betavoltatics

1974.jpg“Betavoltaics, a battery technology that generates power from radiation, has been studied as an energy source since the 1950s,” said Jae W. Kwon, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and nuclear engineering in the College of Engineering at MU. “Controlled nuclear technologies are not inherently dangerous. We already have many commercial uses of nuclear technologies in our lives including fire detectors in bedrooms and emergency exit signs in buildings.”

Sounds a little tricky,isn't it? Lets't give explanation to the betavoltatics and some more information to brighten our mere minds=)

Betavoltaics are generators of  electrical current, in effect a form of battery, which use energy from a  radioactive source emitting beta particles (electrones). A common source used is the hydrogen isotope,tritium.Unlike most nuclear power sources, which use nuclear radiation to generate heat, which then is used to generate electricity (thermoelectric and thermionic sources), betavoltaics use a non-thermal conversion process; converting the electron-hole pairs produced by the ionization trail of beta particles traversing a semiconductor.

Betavoltaic power sources (and the related technology of alphavoltatic  power sources) are particularly well-suited to low-power electrical applications where long life of the energy source is needed, such as EVs.

Any drawbacks?

As radioactive material emits, it slowly decreases in activity. Thus, over time a betavoltaic device will provide less power. For practical devices, this decrease occurs over a period of many years. For tritium devices, the half-life is 12.32 years. In device design, one must account for what battery characteristics are required at end-of-life, and ensure that the beginning-of-life properties take into account the desired usable lifetime.

Liability connected with environmental laws and human exposure to tritium and its beta decay must also be taken into consideration during risk assessment and product development. Naturally, this increases both time-to-market and the already high cost associated with tritium. 

Coming back to our Missouri's battery

The battery uses a radioactive isotope called strontium-90 that boosts electrochemcial energy in a water-based solution. A nanostructured titanium dioxide electrode (the common element found in sunscreens and UV blockers) with a platinum coating collects and effectively converts energy into electrons.

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“Water acts as a buffer and surface plasmons created in the device turned out to be very useful in increasing its efficiency,” Kwon said. “The ionic solution is not easily frozen at very low temperatures and could work in a wide variety of applications including  car batteries and, if packaged properly, perhaps spacecraft.”

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The research, “Plasmon-assisted radiolytic energy conversion in aqueous solutions,” was conducted by Kwon’s research group at MU, and was published in Nature. Feel fre to find out more details.Chemistry is always a lot of fun.

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