Feeds

Coming soon: the 10-year nuclear battery

Betavoltaics a-go-go

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Scientists in the US have developed a new fabrication technique that will lead to nuclear batteries that could last for decades. The researchers, based at the University of Rochester, claim that the technique is already ten times more efficient than current nuclear batteries, and has the potential to outstrip them nearly 200 times.

This breakthrough is unlikely to have an impact on your mobile phone or notebook battery life, however. The technology is designed for inaccessible places or under extreme conditions, and is more likely to find its way into pacemakers, implanted defibrillators, deep-space probes or deep-sea sensors, the researchers say.

Although the basic technology - betavoltaics - has been known for around 50 years, low energy yields meant that its usefulness has been limited. Betavoltaics uses silicon to capture electrons emitted from a radioactive gas, such as tritium, to form a current. But this current is less than is generated by a typical solar cell. Part of the problem is that as the radioactive substance decays, most of the electrons miss the silicon surface.

Philippe Fauchet, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Rochester, and co-author of the research commented: "For 50 years, people have been investigating converting simple nuclear decay into usable energy, but the yields were always too low. We've found a way to make the interaction much more efficient, and we hope these findings will lead to a new kind of battery that can pump out energy for years."

What Fauchet and his team have done is to massively increase the surface area where the current is produced. Rather than use a flat collecting surface, he and his team have riddled the silicon with micron-wide pits, using standard semiconductor fabrication technology. Each of the pits will fill with the tritium gas, and as the gas decays, far more of the resulting electrons collide with the silicon surface.

"Our ultimate design has roughly 160 times the surface area of the conventional, flat design," Fauchet concludes.

The research was published in the current issue of Advanced Materials. Read more in the release from Rochester University here. ®

Related stories

Biofuels key to UK farming future
Six more months for Mars rovers
Scientists suck hydrogen from sunflower oil

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Ex-Soviet engines fingered after Antares ROCKET launch BLAST
Speculation rife, but Orbital claims it's too early to tell
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
NASA: Spacecraft crash site FOUND ON MOON RIM
'What fun!' exlaims NASA boffin who found the LADEE
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
OK Google, do I have CANCER?
Company talks up pill that would spot developing tumors
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Managing SSL certificates with ease
The lack of operational efficiencies and compliance pitfalls associated with poor SSL certificate management, and how the right SSL certificate management tool can help.