Batteries that last for years? Yes thanks to nuclear decay

The man of the 21st century lives his life strictly dependent on the battery life of the devices he uses to simplify his daily life. When we buy a smartphone one of the requirements that all of us check and want super performance is the battery life . The higher the capacity, the longer the service life. However, there are many applications that we use per day and we often spend many hours away from home, so despite the smartphone's battery being more than 4000 mAh this is not enough for us to stay connected . Another very important aspect concerns the charging time , we usually want to wait as little as possible. How can this be solved? Some companies are developing nuclear decay batteries. A novelty that adds to the recent discovery of solar flow batteries and the use of biobatteries to obtain energy from sweat and saliva .

How do nuclear decay batteries work? The main differences from classic electrochemical batteries is that they cannot be charged and recharged, they are very expensive, they have a high energy density. The main application areas concern the automotive, aerospace, consumer electronics, medical implants and defense sectors.

Tritium batteries

In late 2008, City Labs developed the NanoTritium battery using the radioactive isotope of hydrogen : tritium. Tritium is the most benign radioactive isotope and is already used as a light source in exit signs. NanoTritium has power levels of the order of nanowatts and operating temperature in the range from -55 ° C to + 150 ° C, without ruining the operational capabilities. In 2010 City Labs obtained the industry's first license to distribute betavoltaic tritium batteries , so the end user can purchase and receive them without the need for a license or radiation training.

Scheme of the functioning of the City Labs betavoltaic cell

Under standard conditions of pressure and temperature, tritium creates a gas of diatomic molecules; being radioactive it decays forming beta electrons in helium-3, hence the name of betavoltaic battery : it generates electric current from beta electrons . The battery is not only resistant to vibrations, altitudes, high temperatures but also to a change in the environment. City Labs' tritium betavoltaic cell operates on the electron-hole generation principle with a company-patented metal compound consisting of a tritium oxide hydride foil.

In just 12.3 years, tritium is halfway through its decay cycle but the battery will continue to emit low-powered electrons, regardless of the surrounding environment. This is a big advantage over classic batteries whose life cycle is affected by impurities created by the change in ambient temperature. With specific tests in the City Labs laboratories, betavoltaic batteries can reach about 20 years of continuous electron emissions .

City Labs applications

By combining a capacitor or a lithium ion battery in parallel to the betavoltaic battery, you have a continuous circuit without charge, so you can use NanoTritium for medical devices. Once the device is implanted, it will no longer be necessary to replace the battery or incur a malfunction due to a discharged battery. In 6 days, a 1μA betavoltaic source could charge a 1.5mAh lithium ion cell discharged by 10%. With the latter technique, anti-tampering devices can be powered, capable of protecting against reverse engineering attacks. The hybrid source would provide standby and burst current for transmitting and receiving signals in RFID devices and remote control of ordnance and actuators.

NanoTritium will be able to keep encryption keys active for over 20 years in digital processor SRAMs such as FPGAs, powering SRAMs even in cold temperature environments.

NanoTritium in an FPGA

Nuclear diamond batteries

The pioneer company in the creation of nuclear diamond batteries is NDB : Nano Diamond Battery. Their purpose is to provide clean and green energy, improving the standard of living in an eco-sustainable way, producing as little electronic waste as possible . In short, NDB is a safe, high-powered, green and versatile solution using energy produced from globally recycled nuclear waste and fuels.

A diamond-based nuclear battery uses a metallic or ceramic semiconductor to collect the charge produced by nuclear decay. The semiconductor is connected in different units recreating the classic pile structure, giving a greater efficiency of the system. In this configuration each stack is made up of a source of high nuclear energy production, facilitating the inelastic scattering originating from the presence of single crystalline diamond.

The flexible design takes any shape depending on the application , prevents the self-absorption of heat by the radioisotope, and allows for rapid conversion into usable electricity. The batteries and the source are coated with a layer of polycrystalline diamond, an excellent screen for safety. To avoid thermal damage due to the high temperatures of the nuclear source, there are air intakes in the structure that impart heat to the polycrystalline diamond. To avoid nuclear proliferation there is an ionic plant that prevents the use of nuclear power other than the generation of energy.

The energy produced does not only concern alpha and beta radiation emissions but also neutronics using a boron-10 doping converting each neutron into multiple alpha rays. At the moment the company has not disclosed the material used for nuclear power but since it is the reuse of nuclear waste, various materials are hypothesized, among many, many nuclear reactors are composed of the isotope carbon-14 .

NDB applications

One of the goals of NDB is to use these electric car batteries by offering an uninterrupted driving mode with high mileage. It also applies to drones, electric planes, rovers and space stations. Not only that, NDB could be used to power consumer electronics, resulting in smartphones with a battery life of 9 years. NDB could fit its batteries even in everyday objects increasing the life of the device, decreasing the production of electronic waste. In this way all objects would be smarter thanks to a large computing capacity due to a long-lasting battery. These are only NDB's implementation ideas, currently not yet implemented.

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