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Thread: Thirty year beta-voltaic battery: No need to charge

  1. #1

    Thirty year beta-voltaic battery: No need to charge

    Scientists Invent 30 Year Continuous Power Laptop Battery

    Your next laptop could have a continuous power battery that lasts for 30 years without a single recharge thanks to work being funded by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. The breakthrough betavoltaic power cells are constructed from semiconductors and use radioisotopes as the energy source. As the radioactive material decays it emits beta particles that transform into electric power capable of fueling an electrical device like a laptop for years.

    Although betavoltaic batteries sound Nuclear they’re not, they’re neither use fission/fusion or chemical processes to produce energy and so (do not produce any radioactive or hazardous waste). Betavoltaics generate power when an electron strikes a particular interface between two layers of material. The Process uses beta electron emissions that occur when a neutron decays into a proton which causes a forward bias in the semiconductor. This makes the betavoltaic cell a forward bias diode of sorts, similar in some respects to a photovoltaic (solar) cell. Electrons scatter out of their normal orbits in the semiconductor and into the circuit creating a usable electric current.

    The profile of the batteries can be quite small and thin, a porous silicon material is used to collect the hydrogen isotope tritium which is generated in the process. The reaction is non-thermal which means laptops and other small devices like mobile phones will run much cooler than with traditional lithium-ion power batteries. The reason the battery lasts so long is that neutron beta-decay into protons is the world's most concentrated source of electricity, truly demonstrating Einstein’s theory E=MC2.

    The best part about these cells are when they eventually run out of power they are totally inert and non-toxic, so environmentalists need not fear these high tech scientific wonder batteries. If all goes well plans are for these cells to reach store shelves in about 2 to 3 years.
    Struck by this story, I decided to look up betavoltaic or "nuclear battery" to see if this is true. The story unfortunately did not give any indication of who the scientists were. As it turns out, the claim is legitimate. On May 16, 2005, sceintists from the University of Rochester reported that they have successfully designed a betavoltaic battery that ran run for 10 years and is ten times more powerful than any previously designed betavoltaic battery. The battery works by capturing emission from radioactive isotopes and converting the energy to electricity. By the way, this would be a great use for the all the radioactive isotopes from nuclear reactors. That team reportedly was working on a lattice structure that could increase the energy yield by 160-fold.

    Betavoltaic batteries are patented (Source).


  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    SW Florida
    This sounds elegantly efficient, like using hydrogen (the universe's most abundant element) for power.

  3. #3
    My company sold a pacemaker in the early to mid-1970's that was powered by a betavoltaic cell. The source was Promethium. Shielding made it rather bulky, even by the standards of its day, but it provided a more sure power source than the batteries then in use. The invention of the Lithium Iodine cell revolutionized pacemaker power supplies, and we ceased manufacture of the beta cell.
    - Richard

  4. #4
    Of imagine what a battery like that could do for the auto industry. Having a car you won't have to worry about putting fuel in would be awesome, with no emissions
    C-5/6, 7-9-2000
    Scottsdale, AZ

    Make the best out of today because yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come. Nobody knows that better than those of us that have almost died from spinal cord injury.

  5. #5
    The article is incorrect where it says
    Although betavoltaic batteries sound Nuclear they’re not...
    It is correct as it goes on to say
    The Process uses beta electron emissions that occur when a neutron decays into a proton which causes a forward bias in the semiconductor.
    While it isn't fission or fusion, that process of decay occurs in the nucleus of the atom, and so is indeed "nuclear," as the atom decays into a different element. It's most likely that they're using promethium-147, tritium or nickel-63, as most other beta emitters emit much higher energy betas, which are more likely to damage the silicon, and may also emit gammas, harder to shield. Pm-147 has a relatively short half-life (2.6 years), while Tritium and Ni-63 are 12.3 and 92 years, respectively. My guess is they're using Tritium.
    The best part about these cells are when they eventually run out of power they are totally inert and non-toxic
    In fact, they never completely "run out of power," but gradually become less and less radioactive. I wouldn't want to ingest any of that stuff, no matter how old it was. Well, OK, if it's been a couple of hundred years.

    Oy yeah, we're probably talking no more than a few milliamperes here, not nearly enough to run a car (or a powerchair)!
    - Richard

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