Batteries were invented about 200 years ago and have a long history of technological innovation; the common theme has always been making batteries smaller and lighter while improving capacity and efficiency. Most batteries to date have produced energy via chemical reactions, but radioisotope-based batteries provide six orders of magnitude more power and longer charges are now in high demand.
With the rapid spread of mobile devices and humans about to embark on a new space age, long-lasting and efficient batteries based on nuclear radioisotopes seem essential and inevitable if equipment like the Mars Rover, pictured above, are to do their job.
Betavoltaics Generates Power From Radiation
Scientists at the University of Missouri are working on a new “nuclear battery” they believe could become a safe, reliable long-lasting and efficient source of energy in automobiles, houses, space ships, landers and rovers. Beta-voltaic energy has been tested as an energy source since the 1950’s and new needs are now the mothers of invention.
According to associate professor Jae W. Kwon at the University of Missouri’s College of Engineering, “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.”
Kwon’s new battery design uses Strontium-90, a radioactive isotope, that fosters electrochemical energy in a water-based environment. The team uses a nanotechnology process to build titanium dioxide electrodes and coats them in platinum to collect and convert energy to electrons; water is used as a buffer in the process.
Kwon’s batteries are currently just the size of a penny, but will be scaled up and be used initially for micro-electromechanical and nano-electromechanical systems.
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