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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Developing the next generation of nuclear batteries

Atomic batteries that don't require recharging and last between 12 and 30 years are being developed for small scale applications that could potentially be scaled up for electric vehicles. There are quite a few variations on Nuclear batteries and just as many university labs working on them.

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. recently talked to Patrick J Pinhero, Alan K Wertsching and Jae Wan Kwon of the University of Missouri about pushing the boundaries of betavoltaic electricity generation.

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, we looked at producing layered stacked arrays as a means of building to the needs of potential customers.

The notion of an electric car 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.

"With enough financial support to fund both our irradiation and packaging, we could have a commercial-ready device in three years." says Alan K Wertsching

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