Researchers Develop Tiny yet More Efficient Nuclear Battery

Yes it is True; Researchers have demonstrated a penny-sized “nuclear battery” that produces energy from the decay of radioisotopes. Batteries can power anything from small sensors to large systems. While scientists are finding ways to make them smaller but even more powerful, problems can arise when these batteries are much larger and heavier than the devices themselves. University of Missouri researchers are developing a nuclear energy source that is smaller, lighter and more efficient. The University of Missouri team says that the batteries hold a million times as much charge as standard batteries. Interestingly, Nuclear batteries have been in use for military and aerospace applications, but are typically far larger.

They have developed it in an attempt to scale down power sources for the tiny devices that fall under the category of micro- and nano-electromechanical systems (Mems and Nems).AA Battery

“To provide enough power, we need certain methods with high energy density,” said Jae Kwon, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at MU. “The radioisotope battery can provide power density that is six orders of magnitude higher than chemical batteries.”

Kwon and his research team have been working on building a small nuclear battery, currently the size and thickness of a penny, intended to power various micro/nanoelectromechanical systems (M/NEMS). Although nuclear batteries can pose concerns, Kwon said they are safe.

His innovation is not only in the battery’s size, but also in its semiconductor. Kwon’s battery uses a liquid semiconductor rather than a solid semiconductor.

“The critical part of using a radioactive battery is that when you harvest the energy, part of the radiation energy can damage the lattice structure of the solid semiconductor,” Kwon said. “By using a liquid semiconductor, we believe we can minimize that problem.”

And although the whole idea hinges on the use of radioactive materials, the devices are safe under normal operating conditions. “People hear the word ‘nuclear’ and think of something very dangerous,” Dr Jae said. “However, nuclear power sources have already been safely powering a variety of devices, such as pacemakers, space satellites and underwater systems.”

It would be exciting to carry a Nuclear powered device in your pocket and that day may come very soon; thanks to the work of Dr Jae and his assosiates.


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