Scientists at the University of Missouri have developed next-generation nuclear batteries

Researchers in the US are using pioneering technology to create long-lasting, more efficient nuclear batteries that don't require recharging and last between 12 and 30 years.

4/5/15 5:00 am chumakdenis 1

Atomic batteries is the next big thing.They don't require recharging at all and last between 12 and 30 years.

Sounds like it's too good to be true, isn't it?

Well, don't be so pessimistic.Nuclear batteries are real and 100% safe to use(we'll talk about betavoltaics later on).

But first, let's talk about the researchment.

Developing the next generation of nuclear batteries

Researchers in the US are using pioneering technology to create long-lasting, more efficient nuclear batteries. Several teams at the University of Missouri are pursuing nuclear battery research . Much of this work is focused on pushing the frontiers of nuclear battery technology by employing power sources using alpha or beta-particle decay based on a radioactive isotope that can be produced, separated and refined at the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR).

Their idea is to focus on tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that possesses two neutrons in addition to the single proton and electron inherent to its common hydrogen form.

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A specimen of highly-oriented pyrolytic graphite (HOPG) intercalated with lithium to moderate loading prior to irradiation.

Tritium  is not harmful?

3499.jpgTritium is a radioactive isotope that reduces its overall population by one-half every 12.32 years by the pure emission of a beta-particle, which is essentially an electron, an advantage over many other solutions, which produce harmful gamma radiation. There are other qualities of tritium that are appealing: it is the third lightest isotope, it possesses properties and reactivity similar to hydrogen, its path for production is very well-known and simple, and its hazards are well-known.

A few words about betavoltaics

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A betavoltaic incorporated into a flight data locator could signal to search teams for years instead of months.

The first betavoltaic batteries were developed during the 1950s and the basic design - an electron emitter coupled to a collector - remains the same to this day. Commercially available betavoltaic chipsets are low voltage and amp products for niche markets, such as the military, and in order to produce greater performance from betavoltaics, researching group looked at producing layered stacked arrays as a means of building to the needs of potential customers.

Unfortunately, traditional materials were unsuitable for large stacked arrays because the mass and volume of a final battery would be excessive. Much thinner, lighter emitters and collectors were needed for an array design. Recent advances in the material science of graphene have yet to be incorporated into betavoltaic architecture, which, when incorporated into thin stacked betavoltaic arrays, would allow greater overall performance and wider utilisation.

There are many situations where betavoltaic power generation can provide superior performance over traditional chemical batteries and solar cell systems, including poor light conditions, physical extremes, inaccessible locations, disaster areas and irradiated locations.

Stronium-90 in use

Stronium-90 is cheap, easy to obtain and possesses a strong energy and long half-life. The radioisotope boosts and then collects the solution's electrochemical energy, and as long as the radioisotope remains active, power will be continuously collected. 

Are these batteries safe to use?

The prototype batteries keep the radiation in the package. One might assume that tritium will be quite mobile because it is so small and could diffuse throughout the graphitic matrix and potentially effuse out due to the difficulty is sealing it. However, the scientific literature has demonstrated that it remains within the matrix at temperatures up to 900K (627°C). 

*Water keeps radiation inside the package and it has been practically proved that no radiation came out.

Will we see these batteries in the nearest future?

Alas, researching group is not currently funded on this project and are bootstrapping this off of other work going on in their group. They have produced small prototype devices, but still, they do need  financial support.

3497.jpg"With enough financial support to fund both our irradiation and packaging, we could have a commercial-ready device in three years, or a little less, depending on size and application. Of course this timeline is predicated on whether there is the regulatory framework in place to allow its use" - says Patrick J Pinhero, professor in the Chemical Engineering Department and the Nuclear Engineering Programme at the University of Missouri (MU).

Perspectives

The notion of an electric vehicle that recharges itself is appealing but initially the most likely customers are oil and gas and aerospace industries, and space flight companies, which need reliable power sources in inaccessible locations and physical extremes such as high or low temperature and pressure. For example, a betavoltaic incorporated into a flight data locator could signal to search teams for years instead of months.

Cool, isn't it?

Well, let's wish them good luck and financial support for this project.Atomic batteries are really the next big. Let's wait for them to appear on EV market(and let's hope that the price tag won't be way too high).

*What do you think about atomic batteries?Do you think that they're safe to use? Would you like to have a pair of such batteries for your electric friend?

Leave your comments in the comment section below.

  university of missouri university of missouri research reactor betavoltatic nuclear battery atomic batteries innovations research patrick j pinhero jae wan kwon betavoltaics battery with high energy and power capacity

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